Gay Adoption: Is This Really the Most Pressing Issue in Adoption Today?

The media has focused on gay adoption for quite a while, perhaps because it is controversial and controversy – like sex – sells. So, it is little wonder the attention being given to gay rights advocates who are up in arms about laws they see as discriminating against them in the adoption arena based on religious beliefs of adoption agencies such as the law recently passed in  Kansas granting legal protections for faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place children in LGBTQ homes.

LGBTQ activists have now been joined by “tech giants” Google and Apple lobbying against such laws that prevent the state from denying grants and contracts to faith-based agencies for refusing to place children into homes that don’t align with their religious beliefs. A similar bill passed the house in Oklahoma and heads for the Senate. South Dakota, Michigan, Alabama, and Texas have all passed similar legislation.

It amazes [and offends] me that, of all the pressing issues in child adoption today, this is the one these mega corporations chose to take on and stand up for.  Is this really the most pressing current wrong in adoption?

What about child trafficking for adoption? What about pressure, coercion, exploitation to meet a demand for babies? What about rehoming? What about establishing a national child abuse registry so people cannot move state to state like the Hart family did to avoid detection of their abuses to the vulnerable children entrusted to them, and may possibly have prevented the murder of six adopted children? What about denial of adoptees right to access their own birth certificates? None of that matters? It is shocking that Apple and Google find the alleged rights of the LGBTQ community more important to take a stand on than all of these other issues facing adoption.

Sadly, none of these issues which cause harm and suffering to innocent children ever garnered the attention that the issue of gay adoption has. They are just not popular or sexy. Sad realities don’t sell like warm fuzzy happily-ever-after – or even indignant – stories do.

Let me be perfectly clear. Despite the recently reported horrific abuse and murder of six children adopted by Jennifer and Sarah Hart, as a lifelong friend, ally, and supporter of LGBTQ rights to equality, to live free of harassment and violence perpetrated out of hate and discrimination and to marry whomever they choose, I know that same sex couples and gay individuals can and do make excellent care-takers and parents of children, of that I have no doubt or concern and plenty of hetero adopters have brutally abused, abandoned, and murdered children in their care (as have natural parents).

At Issue

The argument is that adoption agencies should not have the right to discriminate against same sex couples and gay individuals and that to do so causes suffering to children who need adopting by reducing their options for a loving home, a preposterous claim when demand for children to adopt greatly outweighs the “supply.”

It’s also a deceptive argument inasmuch as neither state adoptions from foster care nor secular private adoptions are being challenged. These avenues remain open to people of all persuasions. No one is screening out potential families for these children based on religious beliefs or sexual preferences.  Thus, it is patently untrue that LGBT people are discriminated against when it comes to adoption.

Gay adoption – like international adoption – is masqueraded as being in the best interest of “unwanted” children who are “languishing” in foster care.  It is true that there are approximately half a million children in state care in the United States. Many are awaiting reunification with their families. Others who can be adopted are, for the most part, ignored by those seeking to adopt because of the children’s age, because of their physical, emotional and educational abilities and limitations, or they are sibling groups. But there are still other paths to adoption open to same sex couples.

As noted in The Nation’s recent article “The Left’s Assault on Adoption”:

Same-sex couples have abundant options to foster and adopt. Every state in the country allows fostering or adoption by same-sex couples. As one LGBT advocacy group has documented, there are no states where same-sex couples face legal restrictions when petitioning for fostering, joint adoption, or stepparent or second-parent adoption.

Most private adoption agencies, as well as all public agencies in America, are willing to place children in same-sex households. The number of adoptions by same-sex couples has more than tripled from 6,500 couples in 2000, to 22,000 in 2010. And almost 40 percent of all adoption agencies, and 83 percent of public agencies, report that they have made at least one adoption placement with an LGBT person. Same-sex couples adopt and foster and are not prevented from doing so by the continued existence of adoption agencies that prefer to place kids with married moms and dads.

Anyone – regardless of their gender, marital status, or sexual preference  – is perfectly able to adopt a child needing a family. The only restriction in question is one that pits the non-existent right to adopt against the right of faith-based adoption agencies – often funded by religious institutions  – to operate in keeping with their religious beliefs and to provide services to specific communities that choices such religious based services.

The Nation also recognizes:

Faith-based adoption agencies that follow their religious beliefs have a high level of success in placing older and disabled children. They also provide services for vulnerable women seeking help with unplanned pregnancies. Moreover, some women facing an unplanned pregnancy want their child to be raised by a married man and woman. A birth mother should have the freedom to work with an agency that honors her preferences and shares her values.

In general, I am opposed to businesses refusing to serve LGBTQ customers which can result in health professionals refusing to serve clients based on their religious beliefs.  However, when it comes to adoption agencies, there are multiple clients served – those seeking to adopt , the families seeking placement, and the child. Adoption is not, or should not be, merely a business transaction.  And herein lies the difference between adoption agencies and wedding photographers or bakeries who are serving a single client.

This is nothing new. There have long been specifically Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Evangelical adoption agencies that serve their communities, providing families the option of selecting who might or might not want to raise their child based on religious values and practices. Should that right be taken from families in need of finding alternative, extra-familial care for their child? It is, after all their child up until they relinquish their parental rights or have those rights terminated by the state.  Families in crisis considering adoption have the same right to ensure their child is raised in the tradition of his or her family of birth and kin just as every parent does and thus have the right to choose a placing agency to act on their wishes and preferences.

Religious and secular adoption agencies have many criteria such as age of those seeking to adopt, standards some may object to or call discriminatory. The alternative, however, is a society in which children are treated like cars that are sold to whomever has the ability to pay. Adoption agencies act on behalf of and represent families in need. We hope they are acting on good faith and using good judgment to do the best not for the paying client – those adopting – but for the silent client, the child. In that capacity, representing the most vulnerable among us, it is their duty to be selective and have criteria. As a society, we want potential adopters subjected to criminal background checks and home studies though many object to being scrutinized in ways that people who become parents naturally are not. But should the safety net for children in need be any less cautious?

The powerful LGBTQ lobby

I have long avoided writing about this aspect adoption knowing that unless I am totally in favor and supportive of the rights of the LGBTQ community to adopt, I would be seen as biased against gays and deemed homophobic.

The rights of LGBTQ people to create anonymous offspring via genetic “donations”, to exploit women as surrogates, and their alleged right to adopt – a right no one has – become hands off, sacrosanct. Speak out against any of these practices that provide children for LGBTQs and you are labeled prejudiced against their sexual preferences, and silenced, despite speaking out against such practices for all.

Out of more than 100 blog posts I wrote for Huffington Post, only two were rejected. One was this one, opposing the sale of anonymous genetic material because it stepped on the toes of the gay community, despite my objections being the practices themselves when utilized by anyone, gay or straight.

No adoption policy should be formed without hearing and respecting the input of the lived experiences of adoptees.  Anything less treats adopted persons as commodities. Yet, the voices of adult children of same-sex parents who dare to write or speak out about their personal experience in anything but glowing terms, are silenced, discounted as “ungrateful,” bitter, angry by powerful LGBTQ lobby. Those who are less than thrilled at having been raised by same-sex parents report having have great difficulty getting published despite glowing credentials, are labeled homophobes, and are harassed to the point that at least one woman known as Rivka Edelman had to go underground and write under a pseudonym.

Gay men and women, like any group of people, are unique individuals and cannot be grouped together based on that one aspect of their lives. Not all women or even all feminists agree on everything any more than all left-handed people, or all Ohioans share similar opinions, or beliefs.  Thus, not all members of the LGBTQ community are incensed or feel discriminated against by religious adoption agencies upholding their criteria.

Bryan C. is a gay male adoptee and an adoptee rights advocate. He brings a unique perspective to  this issue:

My issue with same sex couples adopting a child is not dissimilar to my issue with any couple or individual legally and ethically adopt[ing], that being the primacy of the child’s well-being above and beyond any real or imagined “need” to parent where biological ability is absent. It is my sincere belief as an adoptee who struggled over years with my own sexuality (self-concept) issues, that a child at all cost, be allowed to thrive in the most stable environment possible. In some instances, single mothers and fathers . . . if assisted by family and professional help would be [able] to maintain an original nuclear family.  In the absence of that possibility, a child placed for adoption for whatever reason, is immediately in a destabilized environment by the very nature of the process.

When one compounds that destabilized situation, it is not, in my opinion, ameliorated by adding further to a [child] placement [with] a same sex couple by nature of it not being a societal ‘norm’ (tolerance or lack thereof ) is not itself necessarily a stable environment. A child already struggling with issues of adoption is then faced with the struggle of being raised in a created non-traditional family. There may be instances of success, but in light of what I have experienced as both a ‘successful adoptee’ who grew up and became an experienced gay man, I believe what I have written to be true from my experience.

I do not think same sex parents ‘deserve’ to be parents more than stable single parents, it simply adds another potential layer of instability to a child of whom instability, in my honest opinion, is already a large portion of their lives. This is my opinion with the interest of all adopted or potentially adopted children, including those conceived in vitro as primary.

My position on adoption

As a lifetime advocate for children and families, I too view adoption through one narrow lens: the best interest of children, above and beyond the alleged “rights” of any of the adults involved (birth or adoptive parents) over those of the child, though I recognize the powerful bond created by the mother/child dyad and believe it detrimental to both mother and child to severe that without good cause.

As such I do not give primacy for the needs, wants, desires or wishes of anyone seeking to create or enlarge their family through adoption. I believe adoption should always be about finding the best care for children not about filling longing arms. (I am equally disliked for this position in the infertility community which has accused me of being heartless and lacking compassion as in the LGBT community.)

Apple and Google and any others who support adoption need to educate themselves and learn the facts. Adoption is glamorized, applauded, encouraged, and promoted as a win-win. It is not. Every adoption, in fact, begins with a loss that creates a lifetime trauma. Many – perhaps even most – adoptees cope well with the separation, loss, lies, and secrecy of the relinquishment at the foundation of every adoption. Their resilience and coping skills do not, however, eliminate struggles such as cultural identity and lack of medical history. Stranger adoption – by any non-related person or persons –  should be a last resort turned to only when there are no extended family able or willing to parent. It should not be encouraged and fought for as a right.

Viewing adoption from a child-centric perspective, we need to be less inclined to jump on the band-wagon of anything that increases the enormously high demand for sought-after babies – currently about 36 to 1. It is this demand and the tens of thousands of dollars those seeking children to adopt are willing and allowed to pay, that creates pressure, coercion, exploitation, corruption, and child trafficking. Thus, if one agency turns down one couple there are many other agencies and many others vying to adopt! No child has suffered.

No adult’s “rights,” needs, desires, or feelings of entitlement should take precedent over the rights of children in need.

Mirah Riben is author of two internationally acclaimed books and approximately 200 published articles exposing the underbelly of the adoption industry here and abroad. Read other articles by Mirah, or visit Mirah's website.