As the battle for same sex marriage continues to be waged, another fight is being fought, mostly on a case by case basis. Although gays have been adopting children since time began, it is only recently that they have been able to be open about who they are without being denied the right to adopt .
In the past, it was necessary to 'stay in the closet' if a person hoped to become a parent through adoption. Starting in the 1960s, gays began demanding and gaining rights in many areas. Adoption was even more difficult for gay men than for lesbians. Men were suspect while women were thought to be following their natural inclination to motherhood.
The face of adoption has been changing since the 1950s and '60s when adoption meant a healthy white infant placed in a upper middle class home with a stay at home mother and a father with a good paying job. As the possibility of placing older children, children of color, and/or children with health issues was realized, so was the idea of adoptive parents who did not fit the traditional idea of 'ideal' parents.
Previously, people who had been divorced or never married were not considered by agencies. Older couples, couples who already had biological children, or who had what the agency considered too many children in the home were also denied. People with their own health issues need not apply. Openly gay applicants were never considered.
Nothing really changed until the late 1970s when adoption laws began to be challenged. Most cases were and still are second-parent adoptions, in which the biological parent is gay and their life partner petitions to adopt.
Adopting a child that is unrelated to either partner is still difficult, although not illegal in most states. Florida is the only state that actually denies adoption privileges to gays, claiming it's not in the best interest of the child. Mississippi sidesteps the issue by banning single parent adoptions as same-sex marriage is not legal in that state.
Most states allow single gays to adopt. They also allow same sex couples to adopt or do not specifically deny the right. Second-parent adoptions are either allowed or the laws are unclear. This causes ambiguity in court decisions, leaving great latitude for a judge to rule according to his or her personal beliefs rather than the letter of the law. That same ambiguity also makes an appeal possible. Each case settled in favor of a gay parent or parents makes the way easier and more predictable for the next case.
Most agencies sponsored by religious groups continue to refuse applications from gays. These agencies maintain that two parents of the same sex is more damaging to a child than growing up in foster care.
One of the arguments for denying gays the right to adopt seems to focus on the long waiting lists for healthy white newborns, as if they are not as deserving as 'traditional' couples. The thousands of children in foster care in the United States and the untold numbers in orphanages, often suffering malnutrition and neglect, in foreign agencies are not often mentioned. There are plenty of children to go around; they are not a diminishing commodity.
According to the 2000 Census, 33% of same-sex female homes have at least one biological child in residence and of the same-sex male homes, that number is 22% . The Census also states that an estimated 14,000 children in foster care reside with gay foster parents. Social service agencies have a double standard when it comes to foster homes. Even though many of the children in care are children of color living in white foster homes, agencies are reluctant to make the arrangement permanent and allow adoption to take place. What is good enough for foster care is frequently considered not good enough for adoption.
There are now many websites providing information on gay adoptions. Adoption isn't easy for anyone, and these sites offer a wealth of information. Google 'gay adoption,' and you will have many sites to choose from, pro and con. It will require some weeding through these sites, as some offer legal services, some offer personal experiences, and others offer only criticism and personal opinions.
There have been many positive changes regarding adoption since the 1970s. As old prejudices and false beliefs die out, more people will be able to provide homes for adoptable children. And it is the children, after all, who will benefit the most.