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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Marriage and Child Permanency: How they relate to one another

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Minnesota Law defining marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman was established in 1976.

In 1996 the federal government signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The act defined 'marriage' as only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and 'spouse' as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

The State of Minnesota passed its own version of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1997. Statute prohibited marriage between persons of the same sex and a marriage entered into by persons of the same sex, either under common law or statute. The act also stated that marriage in another state or foreign jurisdiction is void in this state and contractual rights granted by virtue of the marriage or its termination are unenforceable in this state.

For the past 14 years the House and Senate have gone back and forth on whether or not to uphold the definition of marriage. In 2012, the question will be raised again, this time on the ballot in November.

You may be asking yourself, why does this matter in child welfare?

Here are some statistics from All Children Matter:

  • An estimated 2 million children are being raised by LGBT families and that number continues to grow;
  • LGBT families live in 96% of US counties;
  • In 2009, approximately 14,000 foster children were living in LGB families; and
  • Even with about 110,000 children in foster care who are eligible for adoption, some states and agencies refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

Marriage may grant some legitimacy to a relationship in terms of adoption home studies; however, it may not necessarily impact the number of adoptions from foster care as it depends on the agency's policies concerning same-sex adoptions. For example, if the state in which the agency operates does not have anti-discrimination laws for same-sex couples, that agency could refuse to license same-sex couples as adoptive parents.

In Minnesota same-sex couples are legally able to obtain a foster care license, adopt jointly, and second parent adopt.

Do you believe the ability for same-sex couples to marry would help or hinder children in foster care achieve permanency? Why?

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