Homosexual Couples Should Be Allowed to Adopt New Jersey’s statewide parenting legislation espouses a progressive stance on the matters of same-sex parenting and child care in the processes of adoption and foster parenting. The Garden State allows for same-sex adoption; allows single homosexuals to adopt; and allows second parent same-sex adoption (“Same-Sex Adoption Laws,” n. d. ). New Jersey has passed progressive laws and policies that prohibit discrimination charged against gay individuals in the adoption process (Sudol, 2010).
New Jersey state law also bans discrimination against gay individuals in the foster parent process (2010). New Jersey Statutes Annotated 9:3-43 enables for any person to adopt permitted the said person(s) pass a background investigation and meet adoption criteria for eligibility(N. J. S. A. 9:3-43). Unmarried joint adoptive parents petitioning to adopt a child can do so because of N. J. S. A. 9:3-43. In re Adoption of two Children by H. N. R. , 666 A. 2d 535 (N. J. Super. 995) permits second parent adoption; this statute exercises the possibility for an individual to petition for shared rights of custody with a parent who already possesses legal parental custody of a child. Several states prohibit joint adoption due to unmarried status. This statute is favorable for unmarried parents seeking to adopt in New Jersey. This New Jersey statute provides for an overall tolerant atmosphere for queer individuals and couples looking to adopt or become foster parents. In summary, laws and policies regarding same-sex adoption vary from state to state.
The three common forms of adoptive guardianship are individual (single) parent adoption, joint adoption, and second parent adoption. Firstly, the most traditional type of adoptive parents is the single parent adoption. This is where an unmarried individual adopts a child that has been put up for adoption by the birth parent or by the state. Secondly, joint adoption is when an unmarried couple can petition the court to adopt a child. Lastly, in the case of a second parent adoption, one parent has legal guardianship over a child and a second parent petitions the court to become a legally recognized co-parent.
Bans on gay marriage vary state by state, as a consequence, gay couples cannot petition for adoption as a married couple but, as single individuals. This creates the opportunity for gay couples to become legal parents of foster children since most states prevent unmarried couples from adopting. As a result of state to state differences in the question of gay adoptive parents, second-parent adoptions are either permitted or the laws are unclear (Montana, 2009). Montana (2009) argues that ambiguity in court decisions are prevalent regarding gay second parent adoption petitions.
Montana (2009) asserts how a state’s unclear and ambiguous position on second parent adoption places the decision on the judge to rule according to his or her personal beliefs concerning homosexuality rather than the letter of the law. The courts of twenty-one states including Washington, D. C. have granted second-parent adoption availability to several individuals applying to become legal second parents or co-parents of former foster children (Public Broadcasting Service, 2006).
Mississippi law bars same-sex couples from all possibilities of adoption but, allows the viability for single gays and lesbians to adopt (Public Broadcasting Service, 2006). In Utah and New Hampshire, all unmarried couples, regardless of sexual orientation are allowed to adopt (Public Broadcasting Service, 2006). The following states allow adoption by openly gay and lesbian couples: Florida, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, D. C. Social movements and countercultures during the 1960’s and 1970’s emerged and challenged institutionalized oppression.
The Civil Rights movement addressed the plight of African Americans in a viciously racist society. Gay rights and the feminist movement actively subverted traditional gender norms through political activism. The American public’s disapproval of the Vietnam War served as the political platform to advance anti-war, civil rights, feminist, and queer political agendas in the increasing struggle for equal rights in a discriminatory inequitable society. The social movements of the 60’s and 70’s impacted the traditional views of adoption in the United States.
The trend of challenging the dominant society’s oppressive social structures that best represent the interests of the dominant group, influenced society to question adoption laws during the 1970’s (Montana, 2009). Much like today, openly gay applicants were barred from adoption. The majorities of the cases was and still are second-parent adoptions, in which the biological parent is the legal guardian and their life partner petitions the state court to adopt (Montana, 2009). Adopting a child that is unrelated to either partner is still difficult in contemporary society; however, it is o longer illegal in most states (Montana, 2009). The seventies birthed professional organizations designed to advocate for disenfranchised oppressed groups. One of the most renowned organizations that continues to engage in public education and legal activism is Lambda Legal. Lambda Legal’s mission is to achieve full equality and secure the legal protection of the LGBT community. Throughout the 1970s, Lambda Legal was instrumental in winning some of the nation’s first court cases on behalf of gay and lesbian parents and same-sex couples (Lambda Legal, n. . ). Since its inception in the seventies, Lambda Legal has battled to institute policy change, social change through political and legal activism, and to shape new positive attitudes about the LGBT community through educational awareness. For instance, a landmark court case, Finstuen v. Edmondson, was a paramount victory for LGBT individuals and same-sex parents everywhere. In 2004, the Oklahoma legislature exacted a punitive law that rendered children orphans if adopted in other states by same-sex couples.
Thus, when their families returned, moved to or traveled through Oklahoma, the parents’ legal custody over the newly adopted children is not recognized by the state of Oklahoma. The three families in this case were headed by same-sex couples with children adopted in Washington, New Jersey and California respectively. Two of the families moved to Oklahoma. In the legal defense of the three families, Lambda Legal argued that the law is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment violating the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses. All legal parents have a fundamental right to care for and raise their children, which is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution (Lambda Legal, n. d. ). Lambda Legal remains active in challenging discriminatory laws and policies on the local and state level that work to invalidate the legal adoptions of children by same-sex parents. Lambda Legal secured pivotal wins for the LGBT community’s adoptive parents in its most recent trials; these trials are similar to the Oklahoma court case where the rights of same-sex couples and their adopted children were denied. The Evan B.
Donaldson Adoption Institute is another notable organization that partnered with the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to produce a legal document to ensure ethical practice and policy to secure the well-being of same-sex adoptive families. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the NASW Illinois chapter are dedicated to promote the best interests of children by engaging in research regarding adoption. The adequate education and training of child welfare professionals encourages fundamentally sound and ethical practice when interacting with the gay community.
In an effort to fight for ethical public policies and laws for same-sex adoption, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute immerses itself in political activism to apply pressure to local and state political officials to consider issues that inhibit the likelihood of same-sex parents for homeless foster children. The number of children in need of homes is steadily increasing; organizations like the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Lambda Legal are instrumental in changing the willingness of adoption agencies to accept same-sex parents. Organizational response creates room for social change.
Although the debate about same-sex adoptive parents continues to gain national attention, state, local courts and adoption agencies will continue to arbitrarily deny or accept same-sex petitions for adoption if the federal government does not intervene to standardize this issue by implementing an overriding national policy. Ryan Nishimoto, author of “Marriage Makes Cents: How Law ;ump; Economics Justifies Same-Sex Marriage,” suggests that society’s objections against same-sex marriage and same-sex adoptive parents are rooted in homophobic sentiments, religious views, and denigrating stereotypes (Nishimoto, 2003).
The Supreme Court has historically undermined the gay rights question in contemporary American law (Nishimoto, 2003). The Supreme Court shares the general public’s sentiments about homosexuality’s immoral nature which deems same-sex couples unfit for marriage and parenting (Nishimoto, 2003). The prohibitions on same-sex marriage intimately impact the legal and economic dimensions of homosexual relationships. Marital benefits heterosexual couples receive do not apply to same-sex couples looking to adopt.
Nishimoto (2003) lists how same-sex partners are excluded from insurance awards, social security benefits, public pensions, worker’s compensation, income tax benefits, and estate tax benefits. Being that gays are not able to marry, their partners are not considered spouses. As a result, same-sex “unions” and “partnerships” are not legally recognized to qualify for the aforementioned benefits that heterosexual couples reap. This reality complicates adoption and custody cases for LGBT same-sex couples. Same sex couples must file for a second parent adoption so that both artners have legal custody over the adopted child. This process is emotionally draining and financially costly; a petitioning gay or lesbian parent faces extensive social work assessment to establish suitability (Nishimoto, 2003). State laws can prohibit same-sex second-parent adoption nullifying the possibility of a couple possessing joint custody of a child. Once again, second-parent adoption may be unclear in state legislations. This leaves the decision to appeal a petition on the court judge. A couple’s opportunity to gain joint custody relies on the judge’s personal views on homosexuality (Nishimoto, 2003).
Nishimoto (2003) concludes the discussion of adoption and custody battles for LGBT couples by stating, “Thus, even if the parents overcome the lengthy, costly obstacles in their path, a judge may simply choose not to authorize the adoption. ” Recommendation/Conclusion Interventions at the practice level can have far reaching benefits for same-sex parents and their children. Same-sex friendly foster agencies must engage in practice that does not further oppress the LGBT population with uninformed and unethical practice, policy, and unprofessional behavior.
According to Sudol (2010) foster care agencies must cultivate a culture of inclusive practice integrated at the agency and case levels. At the agency level, staff training must have a comprehensive coverage of LGBT issues and topics; paperwork documentation, informational materials must use inclusive language, advertisements should portray a diverse representation of LGBT families, and inclusive recruitment efforts. Inclusive practice suggests that a practitioner uses culturally competent language as preferred by individual/family, avoids “outing” people, and includes other LGBT people/groups in family engagement/kin search (Sudol, 2010).
In addition, Sudol (2010) adds that child welfare professionals and social workers alike, need to avoid focusing on the sexual identity of the individual/family by seeing the human not the identity. We strongly agree that the federal government must negotiate the contemporary question of same-sex parenting. It makes no sense for the federal government to give a blind eye and a deaf ear to same-sex parenting. Same-sex marriage coupled with this debate is gaining increasing attention as homosexuality gains legitimacy within the broader dominant society.
The overview of current adoption law concerning lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents by the National Center for Lesbian Rights perfectly considers contemporary evidence justifying why LGBT parents are fit for adoption and why the Supreme Court must address this ensuing issue as opposed to leaving it for individual states to reconcile. One, a growing number of children lives in families with two same-sex parents. University of Maryland, Family Policy Impact Seminar, conducted research juxtaposing the rates of adoption in “gay-friendly” states in comparison to states with “anti-gay” policies.
Studies showed that “gay-friendly” states adopted children and found permanent residencies as twice as much as “anti-gay” states. Two, sexual orientation is not relevant to parental ability. Discourse on the capabilities of same-sex parents to be adequate parents is governed principally by harmful stereotypes and moral judgments condemning homosexuality. “Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.
Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth. ” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2002). Three, the need for adoptive homes and the increasing visibility of lesbian, gay, and bisexual parent families has contributed to a dramatic decrease in anti-gay discriminatory policies and practices on the part of adoption agencies and courts.
Four, adoption provides legal protection to children of LGBT parents. The United States guarantees financial support, inheritance rights, social security benefits, retirement benefits, and state worker’s compensation benefits for children of heterosexual parents. The downfall to this is that current law is bias against LGBT couples. Children are not eligible for these benefits if the co-parent in a same-sex partnership is not legally recognized as a guardian.
For example, if the child is sick and needs to be hospitalized, the second parent cannot give medical consent for treatment to his/her child. These incentives/benefits must apply to all children regardless of the parent’s marital status and sexual orientation. The LGBT community has made progressive strides for legal rights in the area of family law (NCLR, 2011). To strengthen and preserve the emotional health of a family in a same-sex parented household, society must change their traditional views of what constitutes a family.
LGBT organizations remain fierce and persistent in advocating for equality and legal rights of the gay community. Custody, visitation rights, domestic partnership benefits, sick-leave benefits, marriage, and adoption are all arenas which the gay community continues to transform for their benefit (NCLR, 2011). Legal recognition of family relationships for same-sex families further enables courts, social welfare policies, and child welfare institutions to adopt LGBT inclusive protections. Mass media mirrors our society’s values and social attitudes.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) encourages media outlets to recognize the highly increasing numbers of families with gay, lesbian and bi-sexual parents by incorporating their stories and experiences into the coverage of all issues related to families. The diversity of images in popular media aids in the reconstruction of the idea of the “ideal” family. It is more important than ever for literature, publication, television, cinema, advertisements, and music to be change agents in today’s society.
Structural change may be slow; however, as a society we must realize that thousands of loving individuals and couples are being denied the chance of giving orphans a loving home. The numbers of orphans increasing in foster care services are disproportionate to the number of foster parents willing to adopt them. This fact alone without a shadow of a doubt calls to question the involvement federal government to revise law and policy to integrate the needs of same-sex parents and the growing orphan problem in the United States.
The investigation of same-sex parents continues to produce evidence suggesting that children growing up in same-sex households report feeling more tolerant of other groups. The quality of parenting and family functioning are not inhibited by the parent’s sexual orientation. Lastly, children raised by same-sex parents do not exhibit psychosocial and emotionally disruptive behaviors (Children Welfare Information Gateway, 2011). | |