New Campaign Highlights Disparities, Discrimination in State Adoption Laws

By Alex J Davidson

Originally published on Advocate.com November 04 2013 10:00 AM ET

November is National Adoption Month, and the Family Equality Council is using this opportunity to highlight the tricky — and often discriminatory — patchwork of state laws applying to LGBT adoptive and foster parents.

The campaign, called Allies for Adoption, includes an online dashboard showing the variety of laws that same-sex couples must navigate to adopt children. Allies for Adoption will also produce a map showing adoptive families in all 50 states and raise awareness of legislation that would eliminate many of the hurdles to adoption equality for same-sex couples.

“If we can mobilize thousands of online Allies for Adoption during National Adoption Month, we can shift the focus of the national dialogue about adoption back to where it belongs: finding homes for children,” says Family Equality Council executive director Gabriel Blau.

The council notes that the majority of U.S. states have policies restricting the ability of LGBT people and same-sex couples to adopt children. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex couples to jointly adopt, while 13 states and the District of Columbia permit second-parent adoptions.

Most shockingly, only six states explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in foster care.

Many LGBT individuals and same-sex couples are also hindered by the high cost of hiring legal counsel to help them through the adoption process.

Nonetheless, many LGBT people are raising children. According to the Williams Institute, as many as 6 million American children and adults have an LGBT parent. Same-sex couple parents and their children are more likely to be racial and ethnic minorities. In addition, an estimated 39 percent of individuals in same-sex couples with children under age 18 at home are nonwhite, as are half of their children.

States with the highest proportions of same-sex couples raising biological, adopted or stepchildren include Mississippi (26 percent), Wyoming (25 percent), Alaska (23 percent), Idaho (22 percent), and Montana (22 percent), as determined by the Williams Institute.

The Family Equality Council believes that adoption equality for same-sex couples would alleviate a host of problems, including the nation’s foster system crisis, which has more than 400,000 children waiting for permanent placements.

Continuing its campaign through the month, in mid-November the council will unveil a 50-state map that includes photos of families created through or strengthened by adoption.

“People all over the United States have witnessed the parenting abilities of people who are LGBT for decades, and the lived experiences of these families speak for themselves,” says Blau.

“By sharing the stories of these loving families, we are showing America the love that exists in our families, and the simple truth that allowing LGBT families to adopt in all 50 states is good for our nation.”

Contact reporter Alex Davidson on Twitter at twitter.com/adwildcat.