While battles for marriage equality are going on across the country, the issues surrounding gay adoption are slipping under the radar — and that may be a good thing. In recent years it's become a bit easier for gays to adopt, and so far it seems conservatives are too distracted by denying others their civil rights to do much about it.
That isn't to say that gay couples don't face major obstacles when trying to adopt. The New York Times reports that Utah and Mississippi are the only states that still ban gay adoption outright, but in about half of all states it's extremely difficult for same-sex couples to adopt, often because they don't have the legal right to get married.
This often leads to situations in which gay couples lack rights both as partners and as parents. Take for instance the story of Matt and Ray Lees, the most wildly sympathetic subjects the Times could have come up with. After Ray adopted two children from Haiti and a baby, Matt adopted five siblings whose drug-addicted mother couldn't take care of them. The Ohio couple was forced to take turns adopting their children as single parents, they need two separate insurance plans, and each can't be the legal guardian to several of the children they're raising.
The Obama administration has quietly advocated extending more rights to same-sex couples who want to adopt, yet it hasn't supported these efforts as strongly as it did with some other pro-LGBT issues, most notably the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." President Obama's position on marriage equality is still "evolving," and it seems he wants to avoid instigating a bigger national debate on gay parenthood.
Recently, the issue has raised some controversy in Obama's home state of Illinois. When civil unions became available in the state this month, Rockford Catholic Charities closed down its state-funded adoption and foster care services. Refusing to serve same-sex couples would have opened the charity to discrimination suits, so instead it transferred about 350 children into other programs and fired several dozen workers.
Despite these hurdles, there are signs that things are improving. The most recent census found 19% of same-sex couples with children are raising adopted kids, up from only 8% in 2000. Overall, this doesn't amount to many families. Only 4% of adopted kids live in a home where the head of the household is gay. However, advocates say that greater acceptance of homosexuality and the desperate need for more foster and adoptive parents is making more adoption agencies welcome same-sex couples. That's fantastic news for the roughly 115,000 children in the U.S. who are still waiting to be adopted.
Adoptions By Gay Couples Rise, Despite Barriers [NYT]
Stark Introduces Adoption Anti-Discrimination Bill [Washington Blade]
Could Obama "Evolve" All The Way To Gay Marriage Equality Next Week In New York? [N.Y. Mag]
Catholic Charities Fight Back On Gay Adoption Days Before Civil Union Law [Progress Illinois]