Bans on same-sex marriage werenít the only
threats to family diversity that passed into law from the
recent elections. Arkansas also banned all unmarried
cohabitating couples from adopting or being foster parents.
A similar law was already in place in Utah, and Florida had
a ban that exclusively targeted gay parents. This hits gay
couples hard, along with unmarried heterosexual couples, and
itís worse for kids. Arkansas already has 9,000 kids in
foster care. Among those, 1,000 children are ready to be
adopted today, but many of them have no prospective families
to welcome them. Arkansasí rate of foster children "aging
out" of foster care has been on the rise over the last
decade, with more than two hundred foster kids turning
eighteen each year without ever being placed with permanent
families. Many spent their childhoods in large state-run
group homes instead of with adoptive parents. Foster
children have higher rates of drug use, school drop outs,
teen pregnancy, and suicide than other kids.
Proponents of "married couples only"
adoption claim their position is "in the childrenís best
interest." Family Council Action Committee, the group behind
the Arkansas law, explain on their website, "Cohabiting
homes, both homosexual and heterosexual, lack the stability
of a married mother and father. Foster children need stable
homes in order to recover from past abuse or neglect." They
also claim that the ban will raise awareness about adoption
and foster care and increase the number of married couples
who adopt. But the same website misrepresents the number of
children who need homes, giving a number less than half of
what other sources find. Family Council Action Committee
describes itself as "pro-family" and says that the law will
help children get the best possible care. Parents and
Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Director of
Communications Steve Ralls has responded to the law by
saying, "There is nothing pro-family about denying children
the opportunity to be part of a loving family."
Sadly, too, many heterosexual married
couples are only willing to adopt healthy white infants.
Same-sex couples are more likely to adopt "hard to place"
kids who are overrepresented in foster care. These include
children with disabilities and special needs, older
children, groups of siblings, and children of color.
Children with disabilities are especially in need of
families because they rarely are adequately serviced in
group homes. Eliminating same-sex couples hits this pool of
Regardless of ideology, unmarried and
same-sex families are a reality. According to the Williams
Instituteís study, nearly a third of same-sex couples are
currently raising children and many more couples want to.
The same study finds that more than half of gay men want to
have children and that lesbian and bisexual women are almost
twice as likely as heterosexual women to have taken steps
toward adopting. An estimated two million GLB people in the
U.S. are interested in adopting, which would more than
provide for the almost half a million American foster kids.
One of the most dangerous areas of "married
only" adoption laws isnít even about foster and adoptive
kids; itís about children living with a birth parent and the
parentís partner. Under Arkansasí and Utahís laws, same-sex
and different-sex unmarried parents cannot second parent
adopt one partnerís biological child. If the bio-parent
dies, the children can be taken away from their other
parent, even if that parent has been raising the kids since
birth. If a little one has a medical emergency and the
biological parent canít be reached, the non-biological
parent canít make any decisions about the childís care. The
same Williams Institute study finds that approximately one
in four lesbian and bisexual women report having parented a
non-biological child. Now in Arkansas, none would have a
claim to those children.
There is a ray of light in all this, though.
A few weeks after the election, a Florida Court struck down
a ban on gay adoption that had been in place since the
1970s. The Florida ban excluded homosexuals only. Frank
Martin Gill, a gay man who wanted to adopt his two foster
children, headed the family that fought the ban. Before
entering foster care, these children were horrifically
abused by their biological parents. Today, they have a
permanent loving home with Gill.