Mitt Romney says it’s “fine” if gay people adopt, but he is certainly not asserting that gay couples are equally capable of raising a child as heterosexual couples. He has clarified his “preference” that children are raised by a mother and father in a series of recent news articles. Thus, it is a bit of a stretch to call Romney a supporter of gay adoption; he has simply (re)asserted his relative tolerance of the current legal status of gay adoption in Massachusetts.
This distinction – between tolerance and support – is important. Presumably aware that there are simply not enough interested and willing heterosexual married couples to adopt all of the waiting children in the US child welfare system, Romney has conceded that it is “fine” for gay couples to adopt – because, again, there is a shortage of “ideal” (heterosexual, married, two-parent) families for children. Romney and others therefore take a rather pragmatic stance in relation to gay adoption. They are not asserting the right for all people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to raise and love a child; rather, they are aware that same-sex couples and gay singles are a resource in that they can help to reduce the disproportionate number of children in the child welfare system.
Likewise, in my research on same-sex couples seeking to adopt, I found that couples sometimes encountered social workers and adoption agencies who seemed reluctant to place children with them (especially girls in the case of male couples, and boys in the case of female couples), but were willing to do so because of the large number of children in need of permanent homes. In turn, these couples sometimes experienced mixed emotions: they were grateful to have found an agency that was willing to work with them, but they wished for a stronger and more unequivocal demonstration of support from their agencies. Being “allowed” to adopt is not the same as being recognized as equally valuable as heterosexual couples. As one lesbian woman whom I interviewed said, “The people were very friendly. There were no uncomfortable feelings, nothing. We were not treated any differently. . . with the forms you signed, everything, it was the same. We’ve been very lucky.” Another lesbian woman shared, “They have a really big gay clientele. If you look at the waiting list on the website it is striking how many same-sex couples there are. We pretty much chose them right away.” Adoption agencies that wish to communicate their unequivocal support for same-sex couples should therefore consider making their materials (e.g., website, brochures, waiting rooms) explicitly inclusive. These kinds of efforts will make the difference between being perceived as “tolerant” and being recognized as supportive. On the other hand, truth in advertising matters: If an agency does not take a supportive stance on gay adoption, then they should not advertise themselves as such. In essence, clarity on one's position is perhaps most important -- more important than the position that one takes.