Adoption by lesbian, gay and bisexual parents: an overview of current law.

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  1. INTRODUCTION: LESBIAN, GAY AND BISEXUAL PARENT FAMILIES.

    1. A Growing Number of Children Live In Families With Two Same-Sex Parents.

      Until recent decades, most children of lesbian, gay and bisexual parents were the offspring of heterosexual relationships where one of the parents later discovered his or her sexual orientation. In recent years, however, the increasing availability of donor insemination (1) and progress in combating antigay discrimination among private and public adoption agencies has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of lesbian, gay and bisexual couples who are planning families and parenting children. (2) Some studies have estimated that six million or more children in the United States today are being raised in families headed by same-sex parents. (3)

      One of the most visible signs of this development is the growing number of support groups for lesbian, gay and bisexual parents throughout the United States. The Family Pride Coalition (www.familypride.org, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International) is a national, non-profit organization formed in 1979 to advance the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and their families through mutual parenting support, collaboration and public advocacy. The Family Pride Coalition corresponds with 320 other groups of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and their children and has sponsored an annual week-long convention for these families called Family Week for the past 10 years. The convention features a children's conference, for children 6 to 12 years old, and a youth conference facilitated by Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE, www.colage.org), a national support and advocacy group of teenagers and adults raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender parents. Families Like Ours, Inc. (www.familieslikeours.org), a non-profit organization providing information and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adoptive and pre-adoptive families, responds to approximately 16 internet inquiries a month from individuals and couples interested in adoption in their home state. And Baby Magazine, a national publication devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parenting issues, has been steadily embraced by parenting experts and professionals since its founding in 2001. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (www.nclrights.org), a non-profit legal organization founded in 1977, receives approximately 1400 inquiries annually from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people seeking information or assistance about parenting issues.

    2. Sexual Orientation Is Not Relevant to Parental Ability.

      Sexual orientation is fundamentally irrelevant to a person's capacity to be a good parent. Social science research has confirmed what experience and common sense already suggest, namely, that love, stability, patience, and time to spend with a child are far more critical factors in being a good parent than a person's gender or sexual orientation. In fact, studies have found "a remarkable absence of distinguishing features between the lifestyles, child-rearing practices, and general demographic data" of lesbian and gay parents and those who are not gay. (4) The American Academy of Pediatrics has confirmed that "[a] growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual." American Academy of Pediatrics, Technical Report: Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents, 109 Pediatrics 341 (Feb. 2002). "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 Psychological Association, Lesbian and Gay Parenting: A Resource for Psychologists 8 (1995). See also Golombok & Fisher, Do Parents Influence the Sexual Orientation of Their Children? Findings From a Longitudinal Study of Lesbian Families, 32(1) Developmental Psychology 3, 9 (1996) ("there is no evidence ... to suggest that parents have a determining influence on the sexual orientation of their children"); and Gold et al., Children of Gay or Lesbian Parents, supra, at 357 ("There are no data to suggest that children who have gay or lesbian parents are different in any aspects of psychological, social, and sexual development from children in heterosexual households."). In all respects, lesbians and gay men have proved to be just as committed to the parental role and just as capable of being good parents as their heterosexual counterparts. Charlotte Patterson, Lesbian and Gay Parenthood, in M.H. Bornstein, ed., Handbook of Parenting 255 (1996).

      Based on this research, numerous mainstream health and child welfare organizations have condemned discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual parents and have issued statements supporting second-parent and joint adoptions by lesbian, gay and bisexual couples. Since 1976, for example, the American Psychological Association has affirmed that: "The sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation of natural, or prospective adoptive or foster parents should not be the sole or primary variable considered in custody or placement cases." American Psychological Association, Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Council of Representatives, 32 Am. Psychologist 408, 432 (1977). See also, e.g., American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement on Co-parent and Second-parent...

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