Despite frantic rhetoric of right wingers, studies from reputable sources says gays, lesbians can be just as good as straights at being parents
We were in Provincetown for a much-needed vacation this year the week after “Family Week.”
There wasn’t much evidence of the thousands of kids and parents who made the pilgrimage. No broken strollers strewn about like urban detritus. No echoes of children crying.
All that was left were the contents of cash registers of local merchants and talk about how difficult it was to maneuver past all the strollers in tight store aisles.
The national LGBT family advocacy group, Family Pride, sponsors Family Week each year. This year, R Family Vacations got into the act as well. R Family is run by Kelli O’Donnell, Rosie’s wife, and produced all the large-scale events in P-town that week dinners, cabarets, etc.
Oh, how things have changed!
I remember when we were quite tentative talking about our families. We didn’t want to draw too much attention out of fear of legal retribution.
Many of us in the community weren’t looking to have families in the traditional sense of kids and parents. I, for one, fell into parenthood, since my partner had a child from a previous, straight marriage. My biological clock was never wound, let alone ticking, so having kids was never on my radar.
It’s only been in the last decade or so that our families have really gotten onto anyone else’s radar other than our own. It took until 1997 for the first state New Jersey to expressly authorize adoptions by lesbian or gay couples.
No, the legislature didn’t do it. The courts did, in a case called Gallucio v. New Jersey.
Ten years later, lesbian and gay families in New Jersey some from adoption or foster care, some biological in nature now also have a civil unions law that is supposed to extend all the rights and responsibilities of familydom on them as well.
Given how difficult it has been for lesbian and gay couples who have been civil-unionized in the Garden State to exact benefits from their employers, I’m not convinced that those families will be fully covered by the law either.
But at least lesbian and gay couples can adopt and be foster parents in New Jersey. Florida still has an outright ban, as do Utah and Mississippi, only theirs is more like equal opportunity discrimination only married couples are allowed to adopt, period.
Utah also forbids unmarried couples from becoming foster parents, while Nebraska has a policy that explicitly prohibits us from being foster parents.
Thankfully, many more states do not take such a draconian view regarding our families.
California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and the District of Columbia also have policies or laws on the books that implicitly or explicitly state that sexual orientation cannot be a basis for preventing gay and lesbian people from adopting.
Given the number of children in need in this country, it is time for many of the country’s adoption agencies and county departments of social services to take their heads out of their collective butts and start recruiting lesbian and gay foster and adoptive parents.
According to a recent report by The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law entitled “Adoption and Foster Care by Gay and Lesbian Parents in the United States,” there are plenty of us to go around.
Using the 2000 U.S. Census, the National Survey of Family Growth (2002), and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (2004), the report estimates that there are two million or so gay, lesbian, and bisexual people interested in adopting.
Given that half a million children currently live in foster care and more than 100,000 of those children are awaiting adoption, making foster parenting and adoption available to lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who want children could solve this national problem overnight.
Right now, there are approximately 65,000 adopted children living with a lesbian or gay parent, accounting for 4 percent of all the adopted children in the country. An additional 14,000 foster kids are living with us as well we’re already raising 3 percent of those kids.
Despite the histrionics of groups like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association, we make perfectly good parents. Reputable, professional organizations such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Medical Association, the Child Welfare League of America, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children all agree that sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on one’s ability to raise a child.
Gay or straight, some of us make good parents, and some of us don’t. Who we sleep with has absolutely nothing to do with our ability to raise children.
While many straight people don’t necessarily plan to have children, it is a deliberate decision that lesbian and gay couples do not enter into lightly.
But we do enter it with a lot of love.
Libby Post is a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 30, 2007