Barriers to Forming Loving Families: Adoption Laws and Same-Sex Couples

November 5, 2014
After a historic summer for marriage quality and the decision by the Supreme Court to deny review of seven petitions challenging state bans on same-sex marriage, 32 states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry. Although these marriage equality victories helped remove some barriers to same-sex couples looking to start a family, many barriers still exist to same-sex couples—in both marriage equality and non-marriage equality states—that want to raise children. There are various ways in which same-sex couples can adopt, including second-parent adoptions, where an unmarried partner can adopt the child of their partner; joint adoptions, where two people petition together to adopt a child at the same time; and stepparent adoptions, where a child is adopted by the married spouse of the child’s parent. Currently, only Mississippi and Utah explicitly ban all adoptions by same-sex couples, whereas most states have a patchwork of laws pertaining to second-parent adoptions, joint-adoptions, step-parent adoptions. This patchwork of laws makes it difficult to always know what legal adoptions are available to same-sex couples. This is further complicated by the number of states with laws that neither explicitly deny nor allow same-sex couples to adopt and the lack of a federal policy that prohibits adoption discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF) aims to address this discrimination. ECDF would prohibit child welfare agencies receiving federal funding from discriminating against potential foster or adoptive parents based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status and would prohibit discrimination against foster children based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It is supported by a variety of medical, public health and civil rights organizations, including the RAC. This November is National Adoption Month which aims to raise awareness of the need for permanent families for orphaned and foster children. As Jews, we have a moral responsibility to take action this National Adoption Month to prohibit discrimination in adoption services . The Torah teaches us that all individuals are created b’tzelem Elohim (in the Divine image), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect (Genesis 1:27). As Jews, our tradition and history teach us that we should not stand by as others suffer discrimination – we envision a government which “to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance” (George Washington, in a letter to Moses Seixas, 1790). The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would help end government-sanctioned persecution. Act now to support ECDF in order to provide safe and supportive homes to children in need, regardless of potential parents’ sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. In addition, check out the Family Equality Council's resources and guide in order to be an ally for adoption.

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