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Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people are parents. In the 2000 U.S. Census, for example, 33 percent of female same-sex couple households and 22 percent of male same-sex couple households reported at least one child under the age of 18 living in the home.
Nevertheless, LGBT parenting in general, and adoption by LGBT couples in particular, are issues of major political controversy in many Western countries, often seen as part of a "culture war" between conservatives and social liberals.
Common methods of LGBT parenting are adoption, donor insemination, foster parenting, and surrogacy, as well as parenting by a mother or father who was previously in a heterosexual relationship.
As of 2005, an estimated 270,313 children in the United States live in households headed by same-sex couples.
Gay and lesbian parenting enjoys broad support from medical experts. Organizations that have officially supported adoption by same-sex couples include the American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the American Bar Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The American Psychological Association states in its Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children (adopted July 2004):
there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children"; and "research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish."
Similarly, Children's Development of Social Competence Across Family Types, a major report prepared by the Department of Justice (Canada) in July 2006 but not released by the government until forced to do so by a request under the Access to Information Act in May 2007, reaches this conclusion:
The strongest conclusion that can be drawn from the empirical literature is that the vast majority of studies show that children living with two mothers and children living with a mother and father have the same levels of social competence. A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in traditional nuclear families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences. The very limited body of research on children with two gay fathers supports this same conclusion.
Many LGBT people raise children with an opposite sex spouse. They may have a variety of reasons for raising children in a mixed-orientation marriage, including everything from discrimination and wishful thinking to real affection, sexual love, desire for family, and spiritual reasons. Often outsiders and even family members do not know that one of the parents is not heterosexual. Coming out to family members is extremely difficult for some LGBT parents, and spouses and children must learn to cope with the new information and anti-gay attitudes.
Foster parenting and adoption
California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia allow second-parent adoption statewide by statute or court decision. Some courts in many other states have granted second-parent adoptions to the same-sex partners of biological or adoptive parents. They include: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
Gay and lesbian individuals can individually adopt as single people in almost every state. Florida is the only state that explicitly prohibits adoption by gay and lesbian individuals as well as by same-sex couples. Utah forbids adoption by any person cohabitating in a nonmarital relationship. Mississippi prohibits same-sex couples from adopting jointly.
|State||LGBT individual may petition to adopt||Same-sex couple may jointly petition||Same-sex partner may petition to adopt partner’s child|
|Alabama||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Alaska||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Arizona||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Arkansas||Unclear||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Delaware||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|District of Columbia.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Georgia||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Indiana||Yes||Yes||In some jurisdictions|
|Iowa||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Kansas||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Kentucky||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Louisiana||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Maine||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Maryland||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Michigan||Yes||No||No explicit prohibition|
|Minnesota||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Montana||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Nebraska||Unclear||No explicit prohibition||No|
|Nevada||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|New Hampshire||Yes||In some jurisdictions||In some jurisdictions|
|New Mexico||Yes||Unclear||In some jurisdictions|
|North Dakota||Unclear||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Ohio||Unclear||Unclear||In some jurisdictions|
|Oregon||Yes||Yes||In some jurisdictions|
|Rhode Island||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Tennessee||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Texas||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Virginia||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Washington||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|West Virginia||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Wisconsin||Yes||No explicit prohibition||No|
As adoptions are mostly handled by local courts in the United States, some judges and clerks accept or deny petitions to adopt on criteria that vary from other judges and clerks in the same state.
A study by UCLA Law School's Williams Institute noted that gays and lesbians more frequently adopt older, disabled, or HIV+ children often not considered by heterosexual couples. The study claims that barring adoption by qualified gays and lesbians could cost the U.S. between $87 million and $130 million per year.
Together with same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, parenting by same-sex couples is a major lesbian and gay rights issue in many countries around the world. The controversy generally concerns whether or not there will be consequences for the development of children raised by same-sex couples. Specific questions include the potential for gender confusion, biased sexual orientation, or the general well-being of such children.
For example, the Christian right Family Research Council claims that a survey by them shows that there is a correlation between homosexuality and child sexual abuse committed by men, and that caution over the suitability of gay parents, in general, is justified.
Yet as a PBS web site on the film Daddy & Papa (2007) reports,
Every study on sexual abuse, by diverse organizations that range from the Connecticut Correctional Institute to the Child Welfare League of America, reports that there is no connection between child abusers and sexual orientation.
Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union's report on parenting by same-sex couples contradicts the Family Research Council's conclusions, stating that the vast majority of peer-reviewed sociological studies indicate that children raised in same-sex households are "relatively normal." When comparing such children to the children of opposite-sex parents there tends to be no difference "on measures of popularity, social adjustment, gender role behavior, gender identity, intelligence, self-concept, emotional problems, interest in marriage and parenting, locus of control, moral development, independence, ego functions, object relations, or self esteem."
A study released in May 2007 by the Department of Justice (Canada), Children's Development of Social Competence Across Family Types, points out that "A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in 'traditional nuclear' families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences."
The American Psychological Association supports adoption and parenting by same-sex couples in its policy statement of July 28 and July 30, 2004. The American Medical Association has issued a similar position supporting same-sex adoption, and calling for its members to fight to reduce health disparities for children of same-sex parents.
Fitness of parents
According to the ACLU and the APA, a substantial number of peer-reviewed studies support the conclusion that, under similar socioeconomic conditions, children raised by same-sex couples are comparable to those raised by opposite-sex couples in terms of their mental and physical health.
Some opponents of adoption by same-sex couples argue that gays and lesbians are more prone to mental disorders than are straight persons, and that therefore same-sex adoption should not be permitted. They cite a literature review by Dr. George A. Rekers of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine:
Reporting the findings of 12-month prevalence, 36.8% of men having sex with men had a psychiatric disorder, compared to 28.2% of men having sex with women. And 55.5% of women having sex with women had a psychiatric disorder compared with 31.8% of women who have sex with men.
The Rekers paper argues from those statistics that same-sex couples are more likely to expose a child to negative influences and such children are more likely to suffer developmental problems, therefore households of married heterosexual couples provide the most stable environment for children and no same-sex couple should be permitted to adopt children.
Critics of this argument note that it is based on a generalization and does not necessarily apply to specific same-sex couples. Extensive evaluations of individual prospective parents are a standard prerequisite for adopting children, regardless of the prospective parents' gender and/or sexual orientation. The prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a general group therefore has little bearing on the fitness of individual prospective parents.
The Rekers findings does contradict the general findings of research on gay and lesbian parenting. As the American Psychological Association has stated,
First, homosexuality is not a psychological disorder (Conger, 1975). Although exposure to prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation may cause acute distress (Mays & Cochran, 2001; Meyer, 2003), there is no reliable evidence that homosexual orientation per se impairs psychological functioning. Second, beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation (Patterson, 2000, 2004a; Perrin, 2002). Lesbian and heterosexual women have not been found to differ markedly in their approaches to child rearing (Patterson, 2000; Tasker, 1999). Members of gay and lesbian couples with children have been found to divide the work involved in childcare evenly, and to be satisfied with their relationships with their partners (Patterson, 2000, 2004a). The results of some studies suggest that lesbian mothers' and gay fathers' parenting skills may be superior to those of matched heterosexual parents. There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armesto, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997). On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
Template:Weasel Some opponentsTemplate:Who of same-sex marriage argue that a child should be raised by both a father and a mother. David Popenoe said "gender differentiated parenting is important for human development and that the contribution of fathers to childrearing is unique and irreplaceable" and "that fathers express more concern for the child’s longer-term development, while mothers focus on the child’s immediate well-being". Focus on the Family points to academic studies which state that the presence of a father in the home increases children's cognitive and verbal skills, academic performance, involvement in or avoidance of high-risk behaviors and crime, and emotional and psychological health than children without a father. There is no major differences in parenting or child development between families headed by lesbian and single heterosexual mothers. Like children raised by single mothers, children raised by a lesbian couple perceived themselves to be less cognitively and physically competent than their peers from father-present families. Mothers reported more severe disputes with their child. Their sons showed no less masculine but more feminine characteristics of gender role behavior. Compared with young adults who had heterosexual mothers, men and women who had lesbian mothers similar proportions identified themselves as homosexual, but were slightly more likely to consider the possibility of having a same-sex partner, and more of them had been involved in at least a brief same-sex relationship.
Opponents of same-sex marriageTemplate:Who also point to research which state the power and importance of the mother-child bond compared to children without a mother. David Blankenhorn argues that raising children in a same-sex marriage violates the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child that guarantees children the right to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world.
Some opponentsTemplate:Who of adoption by same-sex couples question whether same-sex households provide children with adequate gender roles. The underlying sentiment is that, without both male and female role models, children may develop in such a way that they are unable to fulfill traditional gender roles in future heterosexual relationships.
Studies have consistently shown that children raised by lesbian mothers behave, for the most part, within normal sex stereotypes. Researchers have observed slightly relaxed boundaries in sex-typed play (dolls versus trucks) and in gender-stereotyped career aspirations among such children.
Although "many lone-parent families are functioning well," there is some evidence that children raised in single parent households "are likely to be less socially competent" than those raised in two-parent households due to economic difficulties and lack of emotional support for the single parent by a partner or social support by adults outside the family. This generalization has been used by many groupsTemplate:Who to oppose adoption by same-sex couples.
The corresponding argument that same-sex parents are unsuitable hinges on the assumption that children of single parent households suffer due to a lack of gender role models, whereas the cause may instead be a lack of parental care and supervision associated with single parent households. It is therefore not clear that single parent studies in any way reflect adversely the quality of parenting provided by same-sex couples, which, as a 2006 report by the Department of Justice (Canada) states, is "independent of the sexual orientation of parents."
Sexual orientation of children
- See also: Biology and sexual orientation and Environment and sexual orientation
A related concern is whether or not children raised in same-sex households are more likely themselves to be homosexual as adults or experience gender confusion. Evidence from twin studies suggests that a mixture of biological and environmental factors affect sexual orientation, although there is currently no scientific consensus on what specific environmental factors contribute to sexual orientation. A number of peer-reviewed studies comparing children raised by two mothers and those raised by a mother and a father have not found any relation between same-sex parenting and a greater likelihood of identifying later in life as gay or lesbian.
Same-sex procreation: past and future science
- APA Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation, Parents & Children, American Psychological Association, July 28 & 30, 2004. Retrieved on 04-06-2007.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Adoption by Gay and Lesbian Parents.
- Kevin, Bourassa; Joe Varnell. "Harper shoves family study into the closet", Equal Marriage for Same-sex Couples: Advocacy News, equalmarriage.ca, 2007-05-09. Retrieved on 2007-07-30.
- "Children's Development of Social Competence Across Family Types", Department of Justice Canada, July 2006, pp. (Long PDF document, 7.7 Mb). Retrieved on 2007-07-30.
- Gay fathers in straight marriages
- The Married Lesbian
- Butler, Katy. "Many Couples Must Negotiate Terms of 'Brokeback' Marriages", New York Times, March 7, 2006.
- Gay Men from Heterosexual Marriages: Attitudes, Behaviors, Childhood Experiences, and Reasons for Marriage
- Gay, Mormon, married
- Moore, Carrie A.. "Gay LDS men detail challenges", Deseret Morning News, March 30, 2007.
- Bozett, Frederick W.. "The Heterosexually Married Gay and Lesbian Parent", Gay and Lesbian Parents, 138.
- Helping gay fathers come out to their children
- Heterosexual women's perceptions of their marriages to bisexual or homosexual men.
- Wives' reactions to learning that their husbands are bisexual.
- A Family Matter: When a Spouse Comes Out as Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual
- EMRK is for the LGBT adoption
- Euronews: Gleichgeschlechtliche Adoptiveltern - Gerichtshof rügt Frankreich (german)
- Human Rights Campaign, State Adoption Laws, accessed 2007-09-27
- Florida law specifically says "homosexuals" cannot adopt. FLA. STAT. ch. 63.042(3). Upheld in Lofton v. Sect. of the Dept. of Children and Family Services, 358 F.3d 804 (11th Cir. 2004).
- State regulatory code allows delaying or denying an adoption based on sexual orientation. With same-sex marriage now legal, how this would apply to married same-sex couples is uncertain.
- Mississippi allows unmarried adults and married couples to petition, amended in 2000 to prohibit "couples of the same gender" from adopting.
- A 1987 New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling found that two unmarried adults may not jointly petition to adopt. There are, however, some judges who have permited same-sex couples to petition upon showing that they will provide a stable and loving home.
- Based on the use of gender neutral and "partner" language on their application for adoption, New Mexico may allow same-sex couples to jointly petition.
- A 2003 law states: "A child-placing agency is not required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, facilitate, refer or participate in a placement that violates the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies." This is expected to allow some agencies to deny placement with LGBT couples and individuals. N.D. CENT. CODE §50-12-03.
- The state Court of Civil Appeals has held that two unmarried people may not jointly petition to adopt. A contested 2004 law reads: "The state, its agencies and any courts shall not recognize an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction."
- Unmarried, cohabitating couples may not petition to adopt.
- "Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse"
- "Gay Parenting: Fiction vs. Fact", Daddy & Papa (film web site), Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-30.
- Too High A Price: The Case Against Restricting Gay Parenting. American Civil Liberties Union (February 7, 2006).
- Meyer, "Legal, Psychological, and Medical Considerations in Lesbian Parenting," Law & Sexuality: Rev. Lesbian & Gay Legal Issues. Pages 239 & 240 (1992).
- "Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Marriage".
- Paige, R. U. (2005). Proceedings of the American Psychological Association, Incorporated, for the legislative year 2004. Minutes of the meeting of the Council of Representatives July 28 & 30, 2004, Honolulu, HI. Retrieved November 18, 2004, from the World Wide Web http://www.apa.org/governance/. (To be published in Volume 60, Issue Number 5 of the American Psychologist.)
- "Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Marriage", Study finds gay moms equally-good parents , July 2004.
- "Position Statement: Adoption and Co-parenting of Children by Same-sex Couples", American Psychological Association, November 2002.
- "AMA Policy regarding sexual orientation"
- Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children. American Psychological Association (July 2004).
- George Alan Rekers (2005). "Review Of Research On Homosexual Parenting, Adoption, And Foster Parenting".
- Transcript of Larry King Live, interview with Dr. James Dobson, March 7, 2002.
- ____ The Family: A Proclamation to the World
- David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: The Free Press, 1996) p. 146
- However, it is not possible to tell whether this is because the father figure is more involved or whether the mother is able to be a better parent if she has more support at home."Same-Sex 'Marriage' and Civil Unions
- Children Who Have An Active Father Figure Have Fewer Psychological And Behavioral Problems
- Pruett, K. "Fatherneed: Why father care is as essential as mother care for your child," New York: Free Press, 2000.
- "The Effects of Father Involvement: A Summary of the Research Evidence," Father Involvement Initiative Ontario Network, Fall 2002 newsletter.
- Anderson Moore, K. "Family Structure and Child Well-being" Washington, DC: Child Trends, 2003.
- United States. National Center for Fathering, Kansas City, MO. Partnership for Family Involvement in Education. A Call to Commitment: Fathers' Involvement in Children's Learning. June, 2000
- Children in lesbian and single-parent households: psychosexual and psychiatric appraisal.
- Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers.
- Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: a follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence
- B. Hunter, The Power of Mother Love. (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 1997).
- Diane S. Feinberg, M.Ed. The Importance of Mother and Child Attachment
- Blankenhorn, David. "Protecting marriage to protect children", LA Times, 2008-09-19.
- The Battle for Marriage in Minnesota. Minnesota for Marriage. Retrieved on 2006-06-07.
- Nanette Gartrell, M.D., Carla Rodas, M.P.H., Amalia Deck, M.S.N. Heidi Peyser, M.A. and Amy Banks, M.D. (2005). "Interviews With Ten-Year-Old Children". American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 70 (4).
- Kirkpatrick, Smith, and Roy, Lesbian Mothers and their Children: A Comparative Survey, 51 Am. J. Orthopsychiatry 545, 551 (1981).
- Golombok, Spencer, & Rutter, Children in Lesbian and Single-Parent Households: Psychosexual and Psychiatric Appraisal, 24, J. Child Psychology and Psychiatry 551, 568 (1983).
- Green, Mandel, Hotveldt, Gray, & Smith, Lesbian Mothers and Their Children: A Comparison with Solo Parent Heterosexual Mothers and Their Children, 15 Archives Sexual Behav., 167, 181 (1986).
- New Position Statement Adopted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA): Adoption and Co-Parenting of Children by Same-Sex Couples (PDF)
- American Psychological Association (APA) Public Interest Directorate: Research Summary on Lesbian and Gay Parenting
-  - Rainbow Rumpus, the magazine for kids with LGBT parents