- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

Should homosexuals be permitted by law to adopt children?

A review of recent court decisions shows the nation is broadly divided about homosexual family rights and states are not budging from their liberal or conservative stances on the issue.

No one knows how many children have been adopted by homosexual parents. Estimates run from 1 million to 14 million.

In the May 2000 issue of "Demography," published by the Population Association of America, researcher Dan Black estimated that 3.9 percent of the population is homosexual, and that 21.7 percent of lesbian couples and 5.2 percent of homosexual male couples have children in the home.

Adoption professionals agree that agencies all over the nation are placing children with homosexual parents, but not much data are available as to actual numbers.

"Agencies are not tracking it and don't intend to track it," said Ada White, director of adoption services at the Child Welfare League of America, to CWLA's magazine in January.

Last week's ABC-TV "Primetime Thursday" interview of entertainer Rosie O'Donnell, a lesbian who has three adopted children, raised the issue of homosexual parenting and took aim at a 1977 Florida law that prohibits homosexuals from adopting children.

The law was passed soon after a successful campaign, led by singer and Florida orange juice pitchwoman Anita Bryant, to repeal a Miami ordinance that upheld homosexual rights.

"I will pass any test Florida state has for me on my ability to parent," said Miss O'Donnell, who is ending her talk show in May and reportedly moving to Miami.

"The homosexuals are trying to mainstream their lifestyle … and they want to showcase Rosie, who's become a household name, but there's other issues," said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition.

"People need to understand that it's no longer just gay and lesbian [adoption]. It's no longer just bisexual, it's transgender. And those are the environments that are best for kids?" Mrs. Lafferty asked.

"Truth is, Rosie is no hero, and the media's politically correct push for homosexual adoption will only place more innocent children at risk," said Concerned Women for America President Sandy Rios.

On Feb. 14, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appealed an August federal court decision upholding Florida's ban on homosexual adoption.

The ACLU appeal, filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was quickly supported by a brief filed by the CWLA, representing its 1,000 member agencies.

The ACLU was also heartened by a statement, issued March 7, in which nine former Florida lawmakers said they "were wrong" in passing the state's adoption ban in 1977.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest homosexual rights advocacy group, has also weighed in, concluding in a new state-by-state report that "same-sex families are not treated like all other families under law."

"The impact of her decision [to reveal her homosexuality] cannot be overestimated," Joan Garry of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said in a recent USA Today editorial. "A national conversation is about to begin not just about Rosie, but also about gay and lesbian families."

Indeed, the issue is springing up in differing venues around the country:

• In California, a San Diego appellate court ruled in October that second-parent adoptions weren't legal unless the biological parent relinquished parental rights. This jeopardized thousands of adoptions in which lesbians had adopted their partners' children. California lawmakers moved swiftly to fix the problem by authorizing step-parent adoptions for same-sex couples who register as domestic partners.

• In Nebraska, the state Supreme Court ruled March 8 that a lesbian couldn't adopt her partner's child because the mother had not relinquished her parental rights. The ruling disappointed homosexual advocates, but they noted the court didn't address whether a homosexual couple could adopt an unrelated child.

• In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court ruled in December in favor of a lesbian who sued for custody and visitation rights to a child born to her ex-partner. The ruling implies that a biological parent's wishes are not paramount and people not biologically related to children can still have access to them.

• In Delaware, the Family Court commissioner ruled Feb. 5 that a lesbian mother could sue her ex-partner for child support. The ex-partner argued she shouldn't have to pay support because she wasn't biologically related to the child, but the commissioner said both women should be considered mothers because they both consented to the in vitro fertilization.

cIn Alabama, the state Supreme Court gave custody of three teen-age children to their heterosexual father instead of their mother, who lives in California with a lesbian partner. Chief Justice Roy Moore's Feb. 15 remarks about the unfitness of homosexual parents set off a firestorm of complaints but echoed a 1986 opinion by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, the Family Research Council said.

• In Georgia, the state Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 23 that a California lesbian with a Vermont civil union license wasn't married in Georgia. This meant she couldn't have her children visit because her divorce papers forbid visits if she is cohabiting.

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is weighing in on the debate. On Feb. 4, the AAP issued a policy statement saying that "a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence" that children of homosexual parents "can have the same advantages" and expectations for health, adjustment and development as children of heterosexual parents.

Since children "deserve the security of two legally recognized parents," the AAP endorsed "second-parent" adoptions, in which lesbians or homosexual men legally adopt the children of their same-sex partners.

Reaction to the AAP policy was split predictably, with homosexual-rights groups urging lawmakers and judges to act on the AAP's "wise recommendations" and traditional-values groups rejecting the idea that science says "fatherless or motherless homes" are equal to two-parent homes.

Having a father and a mother "offers the best possible outcome for children," and "there is not an area in social science where the evidence is more abundant or clearer," said A. Dean Byrd, vice president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

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