Last Friday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced plans to introduce the Every Child Deserves A Family Act, an anti-discrimination bill that would prohibit child welfare agencies receiving federal assistance from discriminating against prospective foster or adoptive parents based solely on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or marital status. In addition, this bill would prohibit agencies from discriminating against the sexual orientation or gender identity of foster youth.
Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), Patty Murray (D-WA.), Al Franken (D-MN.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have co-sponsored the bill in the Senate, currently in review in the Congressional Budget Office. So far 76 Representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors in the bi-partisan House version, H.R. 3827, led by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Earlier efforts at passing this legislation, including a version of the ECDF introduced in the 111th Congress (introduced by Rep. Stark), were unsuccessful.
While many states take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach towards their acceptance of LGBT prospective adoptive parents, Mississippi, Utah, Louisiana, Michigan and N. Carolina outright prohibit same-sex couples from adopting (although individuals identifying as LGBT may be approved if adopting as a single parent). Several states prohibit the second-parent adoption of a partner's child for LGBT couples (see this map for more information on state by state comparisons).
However, even for those other states without outright legislation prohibiting the adoption by LGBT individuals or couples, agency bias in practice often results in delayed or denied placements of children into LGBT homes such as in Arizona where heterosexual married couples receive placement preference over same-sex couples. Only six states (California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and New York) currently prohibit discrimination against LGBT prospective parents.
- Lesbians and gay men adopt at significant rates, with over 65,000 adopted and 14,000 foster children in the U.S. residing in homes headed by non-heterosexuals. Children growing up in such households show similar patterns of adjustment as those raised by heterosexuals.
- At least 60% of U.S. adoption agencies accept non-heterosexual parental applicants, and almost 40% have knowingly placed children with them - meaning almost any lesbian, gay man, or same-sex couple can find a professional to work with them
- Over 50% of lesbian and gay parents adopted children from the child welfare system, and 60% adopted transracially. These findings demonstrate that non-heterosexual individuals and couples are important resources for children who linger in foster care
The Family Equality Council has created a helpful web site with information about the Every Family Deserves a Family Act, as well as maps for state-by-state comparison regarding adoption legislation for LGBT individuals and couples.
- States Struggle Over Gay and Lesbian Adoptive Parents
- Gates, G.J., Badgett, M.V., Macomber, J.E., & Chambers, K. (2007). Adoption and foster care by gay and lesbian parents in the United States. Technical report issued jointly by the Williams Institute (Los Angeles) and the Urban Institute (Washington, D.C.).