Barriers to Adoption for Same Sex Couples

Gays have the legal right to marry but not necessarily to adopt.

Posted Feb 01, 2016

Although gay couples’ legal right to marry has been settled, their right to adopt has not been. While there are no barriers to gay adoption in several states, other jurisdictions put up various legal obstacles. Mississippi and Utah present the most severe barrier; in both states adoptions by homosexuals are illegal.

The arguments against same sex couple adoptions fall into two categories: such adoptions are wrong as a matter of principle and they are wrong because they aren’t good for children.

The principle opposition to gay adoption is that children are entitled to their biological parents who are of the opposite sex. This argument claims that since children are conceived by a man and a woman, children are therefore entitled to a mother and father. This position rules out both single parent adoptions and adoptions by same sex couples.

A strict adherence to this principle becomes incoherent. Should a single mother be forced to marry, for example? Should divorce be ruled out since the child will be separated from at least one of the parents? Should a pregnant woman who decides that she is incapable of raising a child be barred from placing her child up for adoption? There have always been mothers who have chosen to put their babies in the care of others. It would be cruel to both parent and baby to insist that parents must raise their offspring under all circumstances.

Most everyone agrees that everything else being equal, children should remain in their natal family. But things are seldom equal. Parents die or may be abusive, they may disappear or go to prison, they may have a psychiatric disorder so severe they cannot even taken care of themselves. So children will be adopted. If the standard is the best interest of the child, what family configuration is most likely to lead to a healthy child?

Opponents of same sex adoption present stories of adults who were raised in adoptive homes who say they were harmed because they had only one sex as their role model. No doubt some of these individuals are rightfully aggrieved, but the question is whether the harm they felt was worse than that experienced by other adoptees. There the evidence is scant.

For many, if not most, being adopted creates psychological tensions that are absent in those who were raised by their biological parents. But the major groups concerned with children’s health do no oppose gay adoptions because evidence points decisively that being raised by same sex couples is not detrimental to a child’s well being. (The assertion that organizations such a the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Medical Association and the National Association of Social Workers are either intimidated by or are in the thralls of the “gay agenda” is spurious.)

Incidentally, the arguments raised against gay couples adopting are the same as those presented against trans-racial adoptions. Neither the principled or practical arguments against such adoptions have withstood the test of time.

Children may suffer in families for many reasons but being raised by a gay individual or couple is not, in and of itself, one of them. Being adopted is for some so traumatic that nothing can compensate for the loss of the biological connection. Generally, though, love, care, stability, nurturance and respect are enough for a successful upbringing, regardless of whether it is provided by those biological connected, heterosexual or homosexual couples or single parents.

Prospective adoptive parents should be judged on the likelihood that they will provide a loving home for the child. This is the primary consideration, not someone’s sexual orientation.

Adoptions should be guided by what is best for the child—the empirical consideration of whether the home is loving and stable. These are the necessary and sufficient qualifications.