God Bless The Child (Or Not…Depending)

First the good news:

Growing numbers of gay couples across the country are adopting, according to census data, despite an uneven legal landscape that can leave their children without the rights and protections extended to children of heterosexual parents…

Same-sex couples are explicitly prohibited from adopting in only two states — Utah and Mississippi — but they face significant legal hurdles in about half of all other states, particularly because they cannot legally marry in those states.

Despite this legal patchwork, the percentage of same-sex parents with adopted children has risen sharply. About 19 percent of same-sex couples raising children reported having an adopted child in the house in 2009, up from just 8 percent in 2000, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The overall numbers are still relatively small.  The Times piece reports that the 65,000 adopted kids living in gay-headed households account for 4% of the total.  But the point is that (a) kids who need love and care are gettng it, and (b) in another “both sides are not the same moment” there is increasing recognition of and support for, essentially, the ordinariness of same-sex families, up to and including from the administration of that known enemy of teh gay, President Obama:

The Obama administration has noted the bigger role that gays and lesbians can play in adoptions. The commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Bryan Samuels, sent a memo to that effect to national child welfare agencies in April.

“The child welfare system has come to understand that placing a child in a gay or lesbian family is no greater risk than placing them in a heterosexual family,” Mr. Samuels said in an interview.

The bad news:  in many states, same sex households are still the families that dare not speak their names.  Arizona, for example, continuing its campaign to supplant Mississippi as the most benighted state in the union, set into law a principle of discrimination against same sex adoptive parents.

More generally, bars to same-sex marriage produce obligate single-parented children.  Why?

Because in states that prohibit the marriage of gay and lesbian couples, it is a common feature that two unrelated people may not jointly adopt.  In those states — the Times focuses on examples from Ohio — one half of the couple or the other adopts, and the other just kind of hangs around, legally speaking.

Which is what produces such terrible threats to the American family as this:

The Leeses took turns. Ray adopted three — two who were originally from Haiti and a baby — and Matt is completing an adoption of five siblings whose drug-addicted mother could not care for them.

“When we first considered it, we thought, people are going to think we are crazy for having eight kids,” said Matt Lees, 39. But they did not want to split the siblings and after careful thought, decided to take them.

…It was hard for them as two fathers at first. Their eldest daughter, 6 at the time, cried and asked who would cook and do her hair. But those days are long past. And though the family is a curiosity in their neighborhood — two white men driving eight black children in a large Mercedes minivan — they are not alone. There are at least two other gay families raising adopted children nearby…

“It was the best way we could think of spending the next 20 years of our lives,” he said.

But of course, it is out of the question to provide this family the legal structure that actually gives kids the maximum protection against the chance and hazard of real life.  Fortunately, the Lees are clever as well as (on the reporting here) exemplary human beings, and so they are taking care to guard their children from both random threats and the hostility of a state, that on the face of it would rather kids suffer than thrive in the “wrong” home.  Their arrangements aren’t perfect, but the couple is doing what Ohio law now allows:

They bind their two legally distinct families together with custody agreements. They do not provide full parental rights, however, because like many states, Ohio does not allow second-parent adoptions by unmarried couples unless the first parent renounces his or her right to the child. They have to maintain two family health insurance policies.

If folks — not naming names here — but if folks actually possessed family values, among such precepts would be included the recognition that parents willing to devote themselves to children in need are heroes.  They’re people to be celebrated — and supported, to the full extent that law and communities can.  Just sayin.

(Also too:  Yglesias has a good bit up today on another example of GOP love of the family whilst hating, you know, actual families — this time on the subject of actually feeding children in need.)

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.

Image:  Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of Jan Pellicorne and his son Caspar, c. 1634

Explore posts in the same categories: American Inquisition, Family, The Way We Live Now

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One Comment on “God Bless The Child (Or Not…Depending)”

  1. Andrew W Says:

    Tom, given that the state laws are ridiculous, would this be an equally ridiculous but loving stopgap for couples that have supportive families?:

    “Single” man A lives with “single” man B. A adopts a child and changes his will to specify that, in the event of A’s death, all worldly possessions and the care of the child shall go to A’s parents This is done with the understanding that the parents will claim “We love the child but cannot possibly care for him at the level he needs. Fortunately, man B has stepped forward to adopt the child, and we are therefore granting custody and the bequeathed funds to man B.”

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