Adoption Advice for Lesbian Couples and Singles

Despite true moral progress on the subject of same-sex adoption, America still has a long way to go. In many states, gay and lesbian couples and singles hoping to adopt can expect to face roadblocks. Prejudice, along with outright discrimination, remain problems within the adoption industry, as they do in society at large.

Signs of hope, however, have emerged across the nation. Adoptions among gay and lesbian households have skyrocketed over the last three decades. Likewise, the public consensus on same-sex adoption has changed dramatically. Today, around 63% of American adults say they believe same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt (which, oddly enough, is higher than the general approval rate for same-sex marriage).

In alignment with this rising acceptance, states and municipalities around the country have legalized same-sex adoption. It’s now legal for same-sex couples and gay and lesbian singles to adopt children in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. That’s an extraordinary success that should be celebrated, but it’s inspired a notable backlash.

Just as states have come on board to legalize adopting children for gay and lesbian families, a number of jurisdictions have moved to ratify discrimination within the adoption space in the form of religious “right of refusal” laws.

In a growing number of states, religiously-affiliated adoption agencies are now allowed to refuse their services to gay and lesbian adopters if they find it morally objectionable.

The outrage, of course, is that none of these laws make any distinction between public and private agencies. Should a publicly-funded agency be allowed to discriminate against same-sex prospective parents? Many conservative policymakers think so.

Needless to say, gay and lesbian advocates have a different view of justice.

Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Virginia, Kansas and Florida have all passed or are preparing to pass religious right of refusal laws specifically crafted to sanction discrimination among adoption agencies.

All of these laws allow religious agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples and singles, even if they have government contracts to provide adoption or foster care services.

But federal legislation could be on the way. In July 2018, Republican representatives introduced a bill that would protect adoption agencies with state or federal contracts who discriminate on religious or moral grounds nationwide. States that fought back, penalizing discriminatory agencies, would lose up to 15% of their federal funding for child welfare services, according to the proposed amendment.

The upshot? Read up on your own state’s laws before setting off on your adoption journey. While no state can bar you from adopting outright, your own state’s regime could make a big difference for how agencies are allowed to treat you during the process.

Research your adoption agency options thoroughly. It should be fairly clear from an agency’s website whether or not they actually respect you. At Adoptions From The Heart, we feature a clear and transparent non-discrimination clause, ensuring couples and singles that we’re proud to work with same-sex prospective adopters. Most gay and lesbian-friendly agencies are proud of that fact, too.

Maxine Chalker, MSW / LSW is founder and executive director of Adoptions From The Heart, one of the East Coast’s largest private adoption agencies. A proud supporter of the gay and lesbian community, she has devoted her career to promoting “open” adoption.