[COLUMN] No logical reason to deny same-sex couples the right to adopt

Male couple with child. (Photo By Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany)

While same-sex marriage seems to grab all the headlines, one aspect of the same-sex relationship that often does not garner media attention is adoption by same-sex couples.

While no state in the union specifically prohibits a homosexual from adopting based solely on sexual orientation — Florida’s ban fell in 2010 — many states, Ohio included, forbid same-sex couples from jointly adopting, while some states permit a person to adopt the natural or adopted child of a same-sex partner in what is commonly referred to as second-parent or stepparent adoption.

This discrimination is a holdover from a less-enlightened era and should be ended now.

First, of course, this would not be a problem if adoption were wholly a function of the private sector, where it really belongs. However, that is not the world in which we live today and while there are private adoption agencies, the process itself is a function of the state.

Supposedly, the overriding concern in an adoption proceeding is the best interests of the child. I have no quarrel with that. After all, adoption is about the child, not the parents.

Using that benchmark, however, there is no compelling reason to prevent a same-sex couple from adopting.

Nearly every modern study has demonstrated that children raised by same-sex couples are as well-adjusted and fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. The key to raising a well-adjusted child, according to most studies, rests with the nature and interactions of the familial relationships rather than the sex of the parents.

That alone should be enough to convince governments and people that keeping children from having a loving home to call their own because of some moral or prejudicial feelings against homosexuality is unconscionable.

However, there is more to the story.

As of Sept. 30, 2010, there were 408,425 children in the public foster care system. Of those children, 107,011 were waiting to be adopted. That is more than 100,000 children not adopted who might have been had more states permitted same-sex adoption. In fact, that is almost twice the number of children who were actually adopted during the 2010 fiscal year.

With more than 250,000 children entering the public foster care system every year and only 50,000 being adopted out of the system each year, the problem is easy to see.

While those numbers alone should spur change, there is even more to the story.

The number of children aging out of the foster care system without being adopted is on the rise. A longitudinal study, one made over a number of years, by the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin shows that for those aging out of the system, the outlook is not sunny.

The study found that about 25 percent of those aging out will be jailed within two years.

Other findings show that more than 20 percent will become homeless at some time after age 18; that only 58 percent had a high school degree at age 19, compared to 87 percent of a national comparison group of nonfoster youth; and of those who aged out of foster care and are over the age of 25, fewer than 3 percent earned their college degrees, compared with 28 percent of the general population.

All these negative outcomes for children aging out of the system present a heavy burden on society, both economically and socially.

Permitting just one person in the same-sex partnership to adopt is not the answer. While the couple might be raising the child as co-parents, when it comes time to seek medical care, enroll the child in school, determine inheritances, etc., the lack of official recognition of the nonadoptive parent becomes obvious.

In essence, we have tens of thousands of children awaiting adoption, a large number of same-sex couples wishing to adopt, no psychological difference between children of same-sex couples and those of heterosexual couples, and a foster care system that is harmful to the future well-being of children.

It is clearly to society’s benefit to get as many children out of foster care as possible and into loving homes, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. It is the only logical course.

(To read a more detailed treatment of this issue that I have written, visit http://tho.lu/3q1.)

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