An End to Gay Adoption Bans?
By LISA BELKIN
Data drives policy. Or, at least, it should. In recent months there have been several studies suggesting that children raised by same-sex couples are certainly no worse off (and in some ways are arguably better off) than children raised by heterosexual couples.
Now, in an article titled “Parenting and Child Development in Adoptive Families: Does Parental Sexual Orientation Matter?” in the August issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science, researchers go one incremental but important step further. Rather than simply letting the research speak for itself, they conclude that their new findings should lead to the end of existing bans on adoption by same-sex couples in the United States.
“From a policy perspective, our results provide no justification for denying lesbian and gay adults from adopting children,” Rachel H. Farr and Charlotte H. Patterson, of the University of Virginia, and Stephen L. Forssell of George Washington University write.
At the moment, three states — Florida, Mississippi and Utah — explicitly prohibit gay couples from adopting, and a similar law is being challenged in the Arkansas courts. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, on the other hand, explicitly permit such adoptions, and the remainder have imprecise language in their adoption statutes. The reason most often given by opponents of single-sex adoption is that children do best with a mother and a father.
Over the past year, a parade of studies have all set out to test that assumption. What makes this latest one different was that, for the first time, research on the social development and psychological health of children was not based on the opinions of their parents alone but also of outside observers (teachers and care givers.) And, also for the first time, a control group of heterosexual families was used. The University of Virginia and George Washington researchers studied preschoolers who were adopted at birth by 27 lesbian couples, 29 gay male couples and 50 heterosexual couples. (Yet another groundbreaking aspect to this study was the number of gay men who were included; to date most of the research has been on lesbian mothers.)
What did they find? That it’s the quality of the parenting that creates a psychologically healthy child, not the sexual orientation of the parents.
The implication: From a public-policy stance, the study suggests there is “no justification for denying lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to adopt children,” Patterson, the lead researcher, said.
Which could, and should, but probably won’t, put this question to rest.
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