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Same-sex parenting

2010 to 2018: Legal status of
U.S. gay-lesbian adoptions.
Attempt to allow religious
discrimination in adoption.

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Sponsored link.

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Information on adoption outside the U.S. is located elsewhere

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This essay provides general information only. Do not rely on it to determine your legal rights or status. The legal situation in many states is in a state of rapid change. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a qualified local attorney.

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Legal status of adoption in the U.S. as of 2010:

According to the LoveAndPride website in 2010:

"Utah and Mississippi alone still outlaw gay adoption, since Florida’s restriction was found unconstitutional. Every other state in America allows single gay and lesbian adults to adopt." 1

According to the New York Times, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and released in early 2012-AUG found:

"... that a majority of people surveyed — 52 percent — said that gay men and lesbians should be allowed to adopt children, up from 46 percent in 2008 and 38 percent in 1999." 8

However, some adoption agencies have a policy to not place children in families headed by same-sex adults.

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Status as of 1994:

In their 1994 book on homosexuality, Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian group, reported that: 

  • Florida and New Hampshire had laws specifically forbidding adoption by all homosexuals;

  • Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota and Virginia had legal precedences in which courts ruled that gays and lesbians are considered automatically unfit as parents because of their sexual orientation.

  • California, Minnesota, New York and New Jersey had laws or regulations which specifically permit homosexual adoption.

  • The remaining 40 states and the District of Columbia had no laws either forbidding or permitting adoption by gays or lesbians individuals or couples. 2
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Connecticut event: year 2000:

On 2000-MAY-2, the state legislature passed a bill which allows adoption by homosexuals and unmarried heterosexuals. 3horizontal rule

California events, 2001 & 2002:

In California the adoption situation is complex. Since 1985, "second-parent" adoptions, in which one partner's child is adopted by the other, had been frequently granted. They are used mainly by lesbian couples. However, in the fall of 2001, a San Diego appellate court ruled that no legal authority existed to permit such adoptions. The legal status of more than 10,000 California adoptions instantly became indeterminate. Pat Logue, counsel for the gay-positive Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said:

"It's outrageous. This decision destabilizes the lives of thousands of children, exactly the opposite of what adoption is intended to do."

A few months later, on 2002-JAN-1, California law AB 25 took effect; it grants domestic partners the right to second-parent adoptions. Carole Migden had introduced that bill to the legislature. She planned to propose another bill that would "grandfather in" the adoptions made prior to 2002, and place them on a firm legal footing. 5,6

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Developments 2002 & 2003:

  • 2000-MAY-2: CT: The state legislature passed a bill which allows adoption by homosexuals and unmarried heterosexuals. 3

  • 2002-MAY-3: MS: Governor Ronnie Musgrove of Mississippi signed a bill into law that bans homosexual couples from legally adopting children. Religious reaction was split: "The state's top Episcopal leader urged its defeat. Baptists and Methodists lobbied for it." 3,4

  • 2002-AUG-21: PA: The state Supreme Court unanimously decided that the existing state law was "absurd." It allowed a same-sex couple to legally adopt an unrelated child, but prevented a homosexual from adopting his/her partner's child. This decision overturned an earlier ruling by the state Superior Court in the year 2000.

  • 2003-OCT-28: USA: The Associated Press reported that about 60% of adoption agencies in the country accept applications from gays and lesbians. They were primarily public, secular, Jewish and Lutheran agencies. However, resistance remains strong among many other church-affiliated agencies. A decade previously, this percentage was near zero.

  • 2003-NOV-14: ND: The state Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 1981 decision that had been used to deny lesbian and gay parents custody of their own children. The decision leaves only four states - Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia - where courts still deny custody based on sexual orientation alone.
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Florida legal case, 2008 to 2010:

By 2008-NOV, only two states -- Florida and Arkansas -- excluded all gay men and lesbians from adopting children. However, Florida had allowed homosexuals to become foster parents.

On 2008-NOV-25, the Florida law banning adoption by same-sex couples was found unconstitutional by Miami-Date Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman. This followed a lengthy four day hearing in October during which decades of psychological and sociological studies of parenting by homosexuals were studied.

Judge Lederman approved the adoption of two half brothers, aged 4 and 8 by Frank Gill, a gay man who had raised them as foster children for the previous four years.

The Boston Herald reported:
"Gill, 47, flanked by his mother and a gaggle of attorneys, wept in court after Lederman released her ruling, which said the two boys "shall, from this day forth" assume new names to reflect their new parentage. The brothers’ birth parents had [earlier] lost the right to raise them due to severe neglect, records show."

" 'Our family just got a lot more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,' Gill said."

"The ban on adoption by gay families, Gill said, does not lead to more children being raised in traditional households, since foster and adoptive families have long been in short supply in Florida. Instead, he said, 'It results in more children being left without any parents at all. They don’t have a mom or a dad'." 7

"Currently, 3,535 Florida children are awaiting adoption after their parents’ right to raise them was terminated."

The state argued that the law promoted public morality and was in the best interest of foster children who might be harmed by having same-sex parents. They believe that the law had protected fragile foster children from an unhealthy "lifestyle."

Judge Cindy Lederman wrote:
"John and James [Doe] left a world of chronic neglect, emotional impoverishment and deprivation to enter a new world, foreign to them, that was nurturing, safe, structured and stimulating, They are a family, a good family, in every way except [in] the eyes of the law." 7

The state filed a notice of appeal to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami. Neil Skene, spokesperson for the Department of Children & Families, said that his agency seeks "finality" on state adoption policy. He said: "... we don’t want to litigate this issue every time there’s another adoption petition."

On 2010-SEP-22, The Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision.

On 2010-OCT-12, the Florida Department of Children and Families announced that they would not appeal the case further.

Thus ended the last state law in the U.S. that explicitly barred all lesbians and gay men from adopting children.

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2018-JUL-11: House Appropriations Committee votes in favor of allowing religiously-based discrimination:

By a vote of 29 to 23, the Committee passed an amendment to a funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. It was proposed by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and would allow federal funded adoption agencies to refuse to supply services to any potential clients on the basis of the agency's sincere religious or moral beliefs. This would almost certainly result in such agencies discriminating against same-sex couples who wish to adopt children. One Republican and all 22 Democrats on the Committee vote against the bill; the remaining 29 Republicans voted for the amendment. It now will progress to a vote to the full House. If successful, it will be sent to the Senate for consideration, and then to President Trump for signing.

The author of the amendment, Rep. Alderholt, commented:

"[S]everal states and localities across the country are not allowing religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services, to operate child welfare agencies. The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with [any] same-sex couples.

The amendment I introduced seeks to prevent these governments from discriminating against child welfare providers on the basis that the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions, and furthermore, it would require the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold 15% of federal funds for child welfare services from states and localities that discriminate against these agencies."

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a pro-equality group, said that the amendment would have:

"... a sweeping, harmful impact in child welfare services by enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other qualified parents to whom an agency has an objection."

Ian Thompson, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that his agency opposed the amendment because:

"It essentially privileges the religious and moral beliefs of providers over the best interest of children who are in their care."

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the House Minority Leader referred to the amendment "deeply immoral and profoundly offensive.' She and said Democrats will fight against it "with all our strength." 9

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See also our essay on foster parenting by same-sex couples.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Gay Adoption," LoveAndPrice, 2010, at:
  2. Larry Burtoft, "Setting the Record Straight: What Research Really Says About the Social Consequences of Homosexuality", Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO, (1994), pages 74 to 78
  3. "Homosexual Adoption Page," People for the Way Truth and Life, at:
  4. "Homosexual Adoption Page," People for the Way Truth and Life, at:
  5. "Big adoption issue goes to high court; Same-sex families to be affected," San Francisco Chronicle, 2002-JAN-30, at:
  6. Barbara Curtis, "Analysis: Gay adoptions get boost from new California law, support from pediatricians," Christian Times, at:
  7. Carol Marbin Miller, "Judge strikes down Florida ban on adoption by gay parents," McClatchy Newspapers, 2008-NOV-26, at:
  8. Rachel L. Swarns, "Male couples face pressure to fill cradles," New York Times, 2012-AUG-09, at:
  9. David Emery, "Did Republicans Vote to Make It Legal to Ban Gays and Lesbians from Adopting?," Snopes, 2018-JUL-14, at:
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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Parenting > here

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Copyright © 2002 & 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-NOV-6
Date of last update: 2018-JUL-15

Author: B.A. Robinson
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