Why is the idea of a same sex couple adopting a child an anathema to some conservatives, evangelical Christians, and others that tend to lean to the political right? Is it because they are homophobic and basically believe that gays and lesbians are not worthy of being in a union to begin with? Is it because they believe only their heterosexual union under the banner of Christianity qualifies them to adoption? Those questions will not be answered in this paper and indeed they are not the essential substance of this paper, but they are relevant as background to this issue. Meantime, with an estimated 130,000 American children waiting to be adopted, it seems fair and reasonable that same sex couples, providing they meet the basic economic and social criteria, should be able to adopt a child for their family. Thesis: The salient point of this paper posits that same sex couples should be allowed to adopt the same way any other couple is eligible to adopt, and the barriers should come down, whether those barriers are based on homophobia, technical details, political or religious values.
The Literature -- A Review of Regulations, Obstacles
In Florida, state statute 63.042 makes it clear that no person shall be prohibited from adopting "…solely because such person possesses a physical disability or handicap…" however, no person may adopt "…if that person is a homosexual" (Liberty Counsel). Ironically, in Florida a same-sex couple can serve as foster parents, but they can't legally adopt the child they are caring for. In Mississippi the statute that applies, 93-17-3(2), simply states that "Adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited" (Liberty Counsel).
Other states that specifically prohibit same sex couples from adopting are Utah, Michigan, and Arkansas. And so most of the rest of the states either permit same sex couples to adopt, or their guidelines are constructed in such a way that gay and lesbian couples are prohibited through some catch-22 conundrum.
Meanwhile, professors John Matthews and Elizabeth Cramer write in the peer-reviewed journal Child Welfare that there are "unique characteristics and strengths" of prospective gay and lesbian couples that adoption professionals should be made aware of. Matthews and Cramer present the three phases of the adoption process -- preplacement, placement, and postplacement -- and they provide a qualitative study of data from single, gay adoptive fathers in order to "expose areas of potential strengths of adoptive parents" that are not usually explored by officials in the preplacement or preparatory stage of adoption (Matthews, et al., 2006, p. 317).
Matthews reports that according to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 594,391 "self-identified same-sex households" in the United States. Checking the 2010 U.S. Census, the numbers are quite different, either from better fact gathering on the part of the Census, or more same sex couples being candid about their relationships. The 2010 Census asserts that there were (in 2010) 131,729 same sex married couples and 514,735 same sex unmarried couples in the United States. No data is available on how many of those same sex couples have children, albeit Matthews' figures from ten years ago show 21.8% of male same-sex couples have "their own minor children" and 22.3% have their own plus unrelated children living with them.
As for female same sex households, about 33% reported having "their own minor children" and 34.3% reported having their own and unrelated children living with them (Matthews, 318). The Kaiser Family Foundation's survey in 2001 sampled 405 "self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual adult" households in 15 major U.S. metropolitan areas. The authors do not claim this survey was scientifically or empirically reliable, but they indicate that among the 92% of respondents reporting they were not parents at the time of the interview, "about half said they would like to become parents one day" (Matthews, 319).
On page 320, Matthews points out that gay and lesbian same sex couples have no chance if they wish to adopt a Chinese or Taiwanese baby because these couples are "limited to domestic adoptions -- no country outside of the United States knowingly will place a child with gay or lesbian persons as adoptive parents." However, there are "independent adoptions," Matthews continues, where a child is place with adoptive parents and there is no agency involved in the arrangement at all. There may be a private, business relationship between a woman who has become pregnant in vitro and a same sex couple; an intermediary such as a business that performs these transactions (usually including an attorney) makes these arrangements without an adoption agency being involved.
That data having been presented, there is clearly stress placed on same sex families. Gay and lesbian parents know that "…some people harbor violently negative feelings about our families…[and though] it may remain a mere whisper in the dim recesses of our consciousness or move to the foreground with frightening clarity" it is something that gay and lesbians live with (Matthews quoting Martin -- 1993).
Some of that stress could be removed if professional adoption agencies and gay advocacy organizations could work together designing "programmatic initiatives that meet the needs of…" gay and lesbian same sex couples, Matthews explains. What really matters -- or should matter -- to adoption agencies is that the environment in the home of the gay or lesbian same sex couple is a nurturing, sustainable and loving environment.
The Need for Multicultural Awareness in Same Sex Adoptions
Edward Lobaugh and colleagues offer the view that adoption for a heterosexual couple is plenty stressful on its own, and when same sex couples attempt to adopt a child, there is "similar stress, but it is additionally compounded by societal trends" that make if quite difficult for those couples (Lobaugh, 2006, p. 184). Once a same sex couple begins the process of trying to adopt a child, they "realize their own fear" when coming up against "historical tenets" and "contemporary trends of heterosexism" -- that is, public resistance (homophobic attitudes, oppression and the "stigma" surrounding gay and lesbian couples) to allowing a gay or lesbian couple to adopt. Hence, the authors suggest the same sex couple in this instance seeking to adopt may wish to go through "psychotherapeutic intervention" prior to launching into their adoption program.
Lobaugh specifically suggests that same sex couples consider utilizing the "Determinants of Health" model that was produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (184). In the "Healthy People" material that the HHS has produced, it is pointed out that community health is "profoundly affected by the collective beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of everyone who lives in the community." Hence, it is vitally important for the same sex couple to be up to speed with the best information before proceeding.
The Determinants of Health (DOH) model was designed by public health professionals, scientists, clinicians, mental health providers, national and state health groups -- and it attempts to achieve at least two "overarching goals" for people within the United States. Those goals are: a) to "increase one's life expectancy and quality of life"; and b) to "eliminate health disparities" (USDHHS). In order to meet the two goals, the barriers that may prevent a same sex couple from adopting a child must be reduced or overcome, Lobaugh writes.
If the same sex couple has a perception that their satisfaction and happiness -- and that of their adopted child -- encompasses their lives and values, then the family and the community are in sync as far as the psychological and social balance that is needed in a community. However, the holistic approach by the same sex couple does not automatically transition into a healthy emotional environment, because the "values, culture, rights, beliefs, and aspirations are all key" to understanding both heterosexism and homophobia.
Indeed in many cases in America heterosexist values, beliefs, and cultural practices have "…negatively imposed upon the rights of gay males to adopt children" (Lobaugh, 185). There have been ample instances of discrimination against same sex couples in America, which has led to "health disparities" when same sex couples seek access to jobs, health care, and housing, Lobaugh explains. One way to avoid having same sex couples endure those above-mentioned disparities is to "improve the quality of life" is to actually create an assessment of a community's needs.
What the authors are suggesting is that if there is an objective, professionally done needs assessment in a community, one that examines "actual and perceived methods of discrimination," and of family health in the community, along with "qualitative studies on gay-male families" -- that just might "demystify myths about gay-male families" (186). The evidence presented by this assessment / research could possibly help to alter public opinion away from bias and towards a "more tolerant and accepting public policy" (Lobaugh, 186).
While this may sound a bit idealistic and even unrealistic -- especially when the assessment is being done in a southern community or otherwise a town in a red state that votes conservative consistently -- the authors nonetheless…