- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2003

The recent California Supreme Court decision to uphold “second-parent” adoptions has been hailed as a victory for homosexual couples, but some people see it as a step toward the further unraveling of the traditional family.

“This case has been reported by the media as an affirmation of homosexual adoption, but it actually goes far beyond that,” said Peter Sprigg, an analyst with the Family Research Council.

“It really opens the door for a complete restructuring of family relations,” he said, noting that one of the California justices wrote in her dissent that the Aug. 4 ruling virtually guarantees “new and even bizarre family structures.”

Homosexual rights proponents dismiss such objections as nonsense.

The California high court decision “is part of a very important growing recognition that it’s in the best interest of children to support and not undermine their family structures,” said Lisa Bennett of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights group.

“A decision like this solidifies and protects family relationships,” said Leslie Cooper of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “The notion that an opinion like this is detracting or unraveling the family is preposterous.”

The process won more support this month when leaders of the American Bar Association voted to support laws and court decisions that permit second-parent adoptions.

A second-parent adoption allows an unrelated adult to adopt a child even though the parent retains his or her parental rights. Adoptions typically require birth parents to give up their parental rights.

Second-parent adoptions were first promoted 20 years ago by leaders of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

More than 10,000 second-parent adoptions have taken place in more than 20 jurisdictions, including Maryland and the District, the NCLR reports.

Not all of these adoptions have gone smoothly, as the lawsuit, Sharon S. v. California Superior Court, makes clear.

The lawsuit was brought by Sharon S., the mother of a boy, against Annette F., her former lover. Annette was in the process of adopting the boy when Sharon withdrew her permission and blocked the adoption.

In 2001, a California appeals court sided with Sharon, saying that, except for stepparent adoptions during marriage, the law doesn’t allow for adoptions where consenting parents don’t relinquish all their parental rights.

The appellate decision sparked an outcry from homosexual rights groups and their allies that all other second-parent adoptions could be undone.

On Aug. 4, the California Supreme Court sided with Annette and upheld the legality of second-parent adoptions.

“Unmarried persons have always been permitted to adopt children,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the majority. Parent and child rights are based “on the existence of a parent-child relationship, rather than on the marital status of the parents,” she wrote.

Traditional-family proponents, such as Mr. Sprigg, said the high court ruling undermines bedrock concepts that parenthood is rooted in biology, children need both a mother and a father, parents should have a legal relationship with each other and children should not have more than two legal parents.

All these concerns were raised in separate opinions offered by three of the Supreme Court justices, said Robert Tyler, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization in Scottsdale, Ariz., that defends traditional values.

Others, such as Shannon Minter, legal director of the NCLR in San Francisco, praised the ruling as fair and sensible because it upheld the intentions of a child’s parents at birth.

If parents separate or one dies, it is important to ensure that the child has a right to maintain a relationship with the other parent, Mr. Minter said.

The ruling also may be a harbinger of more progressive legal action, he said.

“The law in California and some other states is moving toward when two people use reproductive technology to have a child, they will both be considered parents, without having to go through adoption.”

At the very least, Mr. Minter added, most state courts are likely to follow California’s example and allow second-parent adoptions.

Researchers have suggested that between 1 million and 9 million children nationwide are being raised by homosexual couples.

The Family Research Council questions whether even 1 million children are in such arrangements. The 2000 census counted 601,209 same-sex households, and most of these same-sex households are unlikely to have children, the council said, citing a study in the May 2000 issue of Demography that indicated that 95 percent of male homosexual households and 78 percent of lesbian households did not have children present.

The Human Rights Campaign said that the Census Bureau grossly undercounted homosexual households and that the number is closer to 1.5 million. New state-by-state census data should clarify the number of children raised in same-sex households, the campaign said, noting that in Massachusetts, for instance, the average same-sex household is raising 1.88 children, compared with an average 1.89 children raised by married couples.

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