Navigating Adoption as a Queer Couple? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Same-sex couple

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Leah Thomas866
July 20, 2024 at 4:51PM UTC

While in 2019, it may seem like same sex couples have the same rights as the next heterosexual couple, but this simply isn't true. The argument over whether or not those in the LGBTQ community provide equal care, love and support for their adopted children as those couples with opposite genitalia mainly stems from both politics and religion. 

Nationwide anti-discrimination laws protecting same-sex couples from being turned down at adoption agencies do not yet exist. The legality of this type of discrimination varies from state to state — while a same-sex couple in New York may be able to easily adopt a child, a same-sex couple in Ohio may have a more difficult time trying to do so.

Even though it may seem like we're heading in the right direction as a country (toward equal rights for homosexual and heterosexual couples seeking to adopt) this is also not the case. In May, rather than making it more difficult for adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, The Trump administration announced it would stand behind the bigotry. 

The Obama administration had enacted non-discrimination policies for same-sex couples looking to adopt, and the Trump administration said that it plans to rollback on these policies, making it more difficult for the LGTBQ community to go through the adoption process and easier for adoption agencies to turn down these couples due to “religious” reasons. 

This is why the conversation surrounding LGBTQ parent discrimination is all the more real and relative this year than it's ever been. 

The history of same sex adoption

Same-sex adoption became a topic of conversation around World War II when LGBTQ parents were denied custody of their children after separation from a cisgender relationship. 

  • Beginning in the 1960s and into the 70s, a movement for same sex rights began and same sex couples also started having families of their own. 
  • In the 1970s, states began giving LGBTQ parents — gay, lesbian, and transgender — custody rights, even though a few of those states also required the parents not partake in “homosexual activities” or live with a same-sex partner. 
  • In California in 1968, a man named Bill Jones became the first single father and gay man to adopt a child in America. He had been told not to disclose his sexuality to the adoption agency for fear of being turned down. 
  • In the 1970s, New York outlawed the rejection of adoption applications based on homosexuality. 
  • In 1979, a gay couple in California adopted a child for the first time, becoming the first openly same-sex couple to do so. 
  • In 1982, the first sperm bank catered toward same-sex couples opened, called the Sperm Bank of California.
  • In 1997, New Jersey made it legal for same sex couples to adopt a child together. 
  • In 2010, Florida became the last state to overturn a previously held ban on gay and lesbian married couples adopting children. 
  • In 2015, same-sex marriage became legal via a highly publicized supreme court ruling.

Same sex adoption laws

Same sex couples may experience different legal complications than heterosexual couples when it comes to adoption, even more so if said couple is not married. The majority of these issues involve the religious affiliations of adoption agencies and their employees. Their main argument is that employees should not be forced to carry out an adoption with which their religion does not agree with. The 2015 supreme court ruling allowing same-sex marriage was a step in the right direction for same-sex couples, but they still face issues when it comes to adoption that cisgender couples do not.

If a gay couple chooses to use conception and birth as a method of having a child, a lesbian couple may search for a male sperm donor. When one partner becomes pregnant, the non-pregnant partner will have to legally become a parent of the child via second parent adoption, which is not allowed by all states. These laws change depending on one’s location, so same-sex couples may run into this issue specifically. 

California and New Jersey give the non-biological parent legal parent status when the child is born simply if the couple is in a civil union or domestic partnership, but this law is not applied nationally, meaning same-sex parents will likely have to deal with adopting their own child after birth. 

How is same sex adoption different from heterosexual adoption?

You may be wondering how these can even be different in the ever-enlightened year of 2019 (don't worry, so are we!) We'll outline the nonsense you'll have to go through in the 21st century if you want to adopt a child as a member of the LGBTQ community.

Private U.S. adoption

Private U.S. adoption for LGBTQ couples generally does not differ that much from that of heterosexual couples in the States. Same-sex couples will seek out an adoption agency, and will be paired with an adoption professional to help them with the process. They will then go through a home study and be approved to wait for a birth mother to choose them. 

The only true difference is that certain adoption agencies may have different preferences regarding working with LGBTQ couples and individuals. And because only a few states actually outlaw this type of discrimination, it is completely legal for them to do so. Same sex couples can research a specific adoption agency’s preferences beforehand and their history with working with the LGBTQ population. 

Foster care adoption in the U.S.

Because there are not nationwide discrimination laws protecting same-sex couples from being turned down by adoption agencies due to their sexual orientation, foster care adoption may prove difficult for the LGBTQ population. As we mentioned before, the employees of these agencies may refuse to carry out an adoption due to their own personal religious beliefs. 

But states like New York, Michigan, California and others have outlawed this type of discrimination and allow equal treatment for LGBTQ couples seeking to adopt a child. 

Resources for same sex couples adopting and new LGBTQ parents

Thankfully, there are a variety of online resources for same-sex couples looking to know more about parenting and adoption. 

The National Center for Transgender Equality gives transgender-specific information on adoption agencies, applying for adoption, finding a surrogate or sperm donor and more. 

The National Center for Lesbian Rights provides information on national adoption laws, state-by-state adoption laws, legal recognition for LGBTQ families and more. The site continues to update as more recent legislation is passed regarding gay and lesbian couples and adoption. 

The Adoption Exchange offers a lot of necessary information involving same-sex adoption process, what you can expect, what is legal versus illegal when it comes to discrimination and more.

The Adoption Network not only gives a variety of statistics involving same-sex couple parenting and adoption, but it also has a 24/7 phone line to answer any and all of your questions regarding adoption. 

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