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social sciences

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Laws exist in other states that make adoptions by glbtq parents difficult, while not prohibiting them entirely, and new legislation that discriminates against glbtq parents is frequently introduced. Additionally, since approval for adoptions is usually contingent upon the completion of a home study by a social worker or other trained observer, some same-sex couples may be denied approval based on the perceptions and prejudices of this observer.

Another legal hurdle for glbtq adoptive parents is the fact that a number of states make it impossible for same-sex partners to both be considered legal parents of the same child, even if the child is the biological offspring of one of them. Second-parent adoptions have been approved by state Supreme Courts or appellate courts in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D. C., while lower courts have approved them in sixteen other states.

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Joint adoptions, whereby both members of a couple simultaneously become parents of a child, are allowed in New Jersey, New York, Washington D. C., and some parts of California. The existence of joint or second-parent adoptions is vitally important for same-sex couples and their children. Only by having their parental rights explicitly recognized by the courts can these parents be sure that in the case of a separation or the death of one of the partners will one of the couple be able to care for their child. For gay male couples, who are unable to give birth to children, these adoption arrangements are the only way they can build a family in the many states where surrogacy is illegal.

The status of these laws is in flux. For instance, a recent lower-court case in California would have invalidated all second-parent adoptions, but this ruling was reversed by the California Supreme Court. And in 1999, a legislative measure ended New Hampshire's prohibition on adoption and foster parenting by homosexuals that had been in effect for over a decade. Connecticut courts had explicitly held that second-parent adoptions by gay and lesbian couples are not permitted, but legislation reversed that decision in 2000.

Florida's ban on adoption by homosexuals was upheld by a federal appeals court, but was finally overturned by a state appeals court in 2010.

Arkansas' draconian regulation forbidding the state from placing children in homes in which an adult homosexual resided was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2006. In response, conservative "family" groups sponsored a ballot initiative that prohibited unmarried cohabiting couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex, from adopting or fostering children. The initiative, known as Act 1, "An Act Providing That an Individual Who is Cohabiting Outside of a Valid Marriage May Not Adopt or Be a Foster Parent of a Child Less Than Eighteen Years Old," was adopted by 57% of the voters in the November 2008 general election.

Although Act 1 prohibited all unmarried couples from adopting or fostering, its real intent was to prevent gay couples from adopting or fostering children.

In April 2011, however, the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously declared Act 1 unconstitutional. Justice Robert Brown wrote for the Court, "We hold that a fundamental right to privacy is at issue in this case and that, under the Arkansas Constitution, sexual cohabitors have the right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial intimacy in the privacy of their homes. We further hold that this right is jeopardized by Act 1 which precludes all sexual cohabitors, without exception, from eligibility for parenthood, whether by means of adoption or foster care."

The landmark Supreme Court of the United States decision in Lawrence v. Texas overturning same-sex sodomy laws may have a significant effect on other cases challenging state laws prohibiting adoption by same-sex couples.

States that prohibit adoptions by gay and lesbian individuals, same-sex couples, or unmarried couples, as well as those that make these processes difficult, often claim that they are applying "the best interests of the child" standard. They claim that growing up without a parent of one sex or in an unmarried home will lead to immoral, unhealthy, or criminal adults, despite the 1995 American Psychological Association report showing that same-sex parents raise children that are just as happy and healthy as those of heterosexual parents. However, prohibiting gay and lesbian individuals and couples from adopting means that many children will grow up without loving families and caring homes.

In 2006, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a report that strongly supported the rights of gay men and lesbians to adopt and urged that remaining obstacles be removed. "Laws and policies that preclude adoption by gay or lesbian parents disadvantage the tens of thousands of children mired in the foster care system who need permanent, loving homes," the Institute concluded.

At the same time, however, the Roman Catholic Church has begun pressuring Catholic Charities to end its century-old adoption programs in Massachusetts and California rather than comply with laws banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Adult Adoptions

Although adoption typically involves the addition of a minor child to a family, adoption has also historically served as a means of facilitating the disposition of property by individuals who would otherwise die without an heir. In many cases, the adoptees were adults, who sometimes agreed to carry on the family name of the adopter.

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