FAMILY LIFE: The adoption options

Sonyia Hartwell

For same-sex couples who want a family, CPS may be a more affordable route than private agency placements

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Adoption has become a common option for gay and lesbian couples that want to have a family. But there’s a lot to know before becoming an adoptive parent.

“In Texas, unmarried couples cannot adopt as a couple,” said Leslie Clay, chief development officer at Hope Cottage, the oldest non-sectarian adoption center in Dallas. But that applies equally to straight and gay couples.

Many couples have opted to go outside of Texas, especially when they are using a surrogate and they want the second parent to adopt and be added to the birth certificate.

But Texas does have laws that are favorable to the adoptive parents.

Texas law is silent on the issue of second-parent adoptions by same-sex couples, according to Jenny L. Womack, an adoption attorney in private practice.

“The only place Texas gets into it is on the birth certificate,” she said.

Texas only allows one man and one woman to appear on the birth certificate. An adopted child’s name, however, may reflect both parents’, and will normally be granted during the original single-parent adoption.

Traditionally, Dallas couples have traveled to San Antonio to get their second-parent adoption completed. Bexar County will allow an attorney to direct a case into a particular court and attorneys know exactly which judges will approve a second-parent adoption by same-sex parents.

But Womack said she has had luck recently in Dallas.

“When we had the Democratic sweep, it brought judges in who will do a second-parent adoption,” she said.

While she files adoptions by opposite-sex parents in juvenile court, Womack files same-sex-parent adoptions at the George Allen Courts Building and has been successful there.

Her advice to couples who want to adopt is to visit an adoption attorney first.

Hope Cottage Executive Director Sonyia Hartwell explained that there are two types of adoptions — private and through Child Protective Services.

Hope Cottage is located on McKinney Avenue in Uptown and welcomes same-sex couples. The minimum age for adoptive parents at that agency is 26 and same-sex couples must be in a stable relationship of at least two years.

Hartwell said that the mother placing her child in an adoptive home often participates in choosing the parents. She said CPS works well with same-sex couples.

Most adoptions are done through an agency. Private adoptions are legal in Texas but may not be arranged by individuals. Attorneys and doctors cannot act as adoption agents. Only licensed agencies may.

However, if a private adoption is arranged through a contact, the adopting parents are legally allowed to pay only medical, legal and counseling expenses. Rent, maternity clothes or grocery assistance may only be paid for through a licensed agency. Paying those expenses directly is classified as paying a fee for a child, and is a felony in Texas under laws that prevent baby selling.

Agencies may pay those expenses but are also prevented from helping a birth mother in some ways. The agency can pay rent or utilities but not a rent or utility deposit.

A home study is required by all agencies. CPS assigns its own caseworkers but a couple may choose anyone approved to do home studies. That includes a number of people in the LGBT community.

“I tell my clients to be open and honest and don’t freak out,” Womack said.

Hartwell said same-sex couples who successfully adopt are completely out about their relationship and who they are.

“You have to hold yourself out as a couple,” she said.

That means being out to family members and co-workers.

She said that couples that aren’t out won’t have the support of family, friends and co-workers necessary for successful adoptions.

Hartwell said that CPS adoptions are a good, lower-cost alternative to private adoptions.

She suggested couples should be as open-minded as possible.

Older couples aren’t likely to get infants. Younger couples who want infants and are adopting through CPS are more likely to get a placement if they’ll take an older sibling as well.

Hartwell said that the state doesn’t like to break up families.

Hartwell encouraged couples thinking of adopting to schedule an appointment to discuss the possibility. She said most will interview several agencies before settling on one.

An attorney is necessary to file the adoption by the first parent and later by the second.

CPS needs homes to place the thousands of children without parents in Texas.

Clay summed up what they’re looking for.

“We’re looking for good parents,” she said.

For referrals to adoption attorney across the country, visit AdoptionAttorneys.org.

—  John Wright

Satan is on our side

I am on an email list for LGBT journalists/bloggers/PR people, and today someone on that list pointed out a recent conducted by the “Christian” news service OneNewsNow.com.

The poll question was: “What’s the major factor that allows homosexuals – a tiny fraction of the whole population – to dictate major changes in cultural morality?”

About 7,000 people responded. Of that number, 15 percent said it’s money that lets us homos control things and warp the morals of the culture. Another 7 percent said we do it through half-truths, and 33 percent said we intimidate our way to power.

But most of them had a much simpler explanation: 45 percent of the people who responded say LGBTs are able to change the cultural morality because — ready for this? — Satan is on our side. That’s right folks, the devil helps us do it.

I went to the OneNewsNow website to check it out for myself. But I couldn’t find that particular poll. It has apparently been replaced by a new poll question, asking for people’s reactions to a decision by the Arkansas State Supreme Court, released this week, striking down a constitutional amendment, approved by voters, to prohibit lesbians and gays from becoming foster or adoptive parents in that state. I found the choice of answers to be rather enlightening: “• Voters lose … courts win; • Children lose … gay activists win; • Morality loses … political correctness wins.”

Interesting, isn’t it, that they don’t give you the choice of saying “Doing the right thing wins … Right-wingnut homophobes lose.”

Anyway, I chose “Voters lose … courts win” because it wouldn’t let me see poll results until I chose one, and that was the least offensive choice to me. With 130 responses so far, “Voters lose … courts win” trails with 20 percent; followed by “Children lose … gay activists win” with 29.23 percent and, the winner, “Morality loses … political correctness wins” with 50.77 percent.

Makes sense, of course. We all know that “Political Correctness” is Satan’s mantra, and Satan is on our side.

—  admin

House GOP caucus endorses Straus for speaker; LGBT community breathes sigh of relief

Although more conservative factions in the state had been calling for the ouster of Rep. Joe Straus as speaker of the Texas House, the House Republican Caucus today endorsed Straus — known as a moderate Republican — for the seat.

Rep. Joe Straus

That news comes as something of a relief for LGBT advocates who had feared that someone further to the right would be chosen as speaker and given the chance to control the legislative agenda. Back in November, Reps. Warren Chisum of Pampa and Ken Paxton of McKinney both announced they were running for speaker. Chisum has long been known as one of the most anti-gay members of the House, routinely introducing and/or supporting bills on such topics as preventing LGBT people from becoming foster or adoptive parents. Chisum also was the primary author of the constitutional amendment passed in 2005 to ban same-sex marriage in Texas. Paxton was a co-author of the amendment and also voted in favor of banning LGBT foster and adoptive parents.

Among those fighting the hardest to defeat Straus’ bid for another term as speaker were leaders of the anti-gay Texas Eagle Forum, who had warned lawmakers the group would base half its score for legislators on who they supported for speaker. Others who have been outspoken in opposing Straus are Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford, Heritage Alliance President Richard Ford and Texas Eagle Forum founder Cathie Adams.

And in December, The Texas Observer reported that John Cook, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said he was campaigning against Straus — who is Jewish and attends a synagogue that supports LGBT rights — because, “I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office.” Cook also accused Straus of being pro-choice and pro-gay rights.

The Houston Chronicle reported today that 70 of the 100 lawmakers attending the House Republican Caucus meeting today voted to back Straus for speaker. The Chronicle report noted that the caucus vote is non-binding but “virtually guarantees Straus’ re-election Tuesday when the Texas Legislature opens a new session.”

—  admin

As Equality Texas unveils poll results on bullying, Rep. Anchia files gay adoption measure

State Rep. Rafael Anchia

Senior editor Tammye Nash is down in Austin this morning, where as we speak Equality Texas is holding a press conference to unveil poll results showing that 80 percent of Texans support anti-bullying legislation that protects gay teenagers and the children of gay parents. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns is also there, and comments from former first lady Laura Bush will be shared. More on that here for now and later from Tammye.

But elsewhere on the legislative front this morning, it looks like State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has again filed legislation that would allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both of their names listed on a child’s birth certificate. This issue has been the subject of litigation in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled that the state must issue an amended birth certificate listing the names of both gay parents. The Louisiana attorney general is appealing the ruling, and the gay parents are represented by Ken Upton of Lambda Legal in Dallas, who tells us he’s also itching to challenge Texas’ statute if Anchia’s bill doesn’t pass.

Anchia’s HB 415, filed Friday and similar to a bill he filed last session, would strike language from the Health and Safety Code as shown below:

.

—  John Wright

WingSpan tackles 2 early Albees

Being gay figures less concretely in playwright Edward Albee’s work than do his skewed ideas about the nuclear family (owing, in part, to his chilly adoptive parents). But his plays almost always deal with people on the outside of society.

Two on the Aisle: The American Dream and The Sandbox is a festival of two early one-acters from Albee, which WingSpan Theatre Co. is reviving at the Bath House Cultural Center, starting this week. In The Sandbox, an elderly relation’s (Elly Lindsay, pictured) usefulness is minimized as her materialistic family plot to get rid of her; The American Dream continues that family’s story with deep stabs at middle class values.  In true Albee fashion, the absurdism is girded by a dark sense of humor and an ample dose of satire.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Presented by WingSpan Theatre Co. Through Oct. 23. Thursdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m., select weekend matinees at 2 p.m. $17–$20. 214-675-6573. WingSpanTheatre.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

Arkansas officials, right-wing group appeal judge’s ruling striking down gay adoption ban

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The state Department of Human Services and a conservative group have appealed a judge’s ruling that struck down Arkansas’ voter-approved ban on unmarried couples serving as foster or adoptive parents.

The case is now before the Arkansas Supreme Court, after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled in April that the ban is unconstitutional. The high court set a Sept. 21 deadline for legal briefs in the case after the state and the Family Action Council Committee appealed the ruling.

Voters approved the ban in November 2008. It bars unmarried couples from fostering or adopting children, and effectively prohibits gays and lesbians from doing so because same-sex marriage is illegal in Arkansas.

The high court could hear oral arguments in the case as soon as this fall.

—  John Wright

The Plank-Wanker: Your daily Texas political platform update

Dallas gay Repulican leader Rob Schlein is getting some major love in the national queerosphere for the statement he issued Tuesday slamming the anti-gay Texas GOP platform. We’ve seen write-ups in places including The Advocate and GayPolitics.com, so no doubt there are others. Still, though, our favorite Log Cabin story of the day is this item from Minnesota’s CityPages, which picked up the condom shown here at an LCR table during Twin Cities Pride. As you can see, the wrapper says, “Drill, baby, drill!! … just don’t spill.” What?

Anyhow, in other platform news, turns out the Texas Democrats actually approved six pro-LGBT resolutions — not four, as we reported yesterday — during their convention last weekend in Corpus Christi.

Dan Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, explains in an e-mail:

In addition to the four Equality Texas resolutions on nondiscrimination, safe schools, accurate birth certificates and competitive insurance benefits, there are two additional resolutions that passed on the floor. One supports LGBT foster and adoptive parents and the other calls for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The resolution calling for the repeal of the discriminatory Texas Constitutional Marriage Amendment is not among those that passed — don’t know if it did not pass enough senate district conventions or what.

Anyway, this is the first time ANY of our LGBT-related resolutions passed the floor of any State Convention and to have six of them pass in this convention is truly awesome! We have come a long ways, baby! Our Texas Stonewall members are to be credited for their hard work in turning this dream into a reality.

—  John Wright