Emboldened by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear a case that upheld Floridaâ€™s law preventing gay people from adopting in that state, Virginia state Delegate Richard H. Black has introduced H.B. 2921, a bill that would do the same for Virginia. The law could go into effect this year.
â€śNo person under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexualâ€ť would be added to Virginiaâ€™s adoption laws. According to Herb Lux, Blackâ€™s legislative assistant, all those applying to adopt would be asked if they are a homosexual as part of the normal screening process. Currently, potential adoptive parents are investigated for past criminal records, current health status and the ability to be a fit parent.
â€śThe law has the exact wording as the Florida law. Itâ€™s to preserve the role of the mother and father in a family and Virginia law,â€ť Lux said. â€śScientific studies have also shown that the best interest of a child lies in their having a mother and a father.â€ť
Dyana Mason, Executive Director of Equality Virginia disagrees. â€śMr. Black is wrong about those studies. They show that children raised in gay households turn out just as well as children in heterosexual households. What heâ€™s saying is having no parents is better than having gay parents. Heâ€™s willing to deprive children of families to keep them away from gay people.â€ť
Lux would not answer whether Delegate Black thought it preferable a child remain in foster care or an orphanage, rather than be adopted by a gay parent.
â€śWe have received an overwhelming positive response from constituents and from people around the country who are concerned with the traditional family and the role it plays in raising children,â€ť he said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Children, Youth and Families, estimates that there are more than 100,000 children in foster care in the U.S. every year, and only a third of them are ever adopted.
According to Paul Cates, Director of Public Education for the ACLUâ€™s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, besides Virginia, the state of Indiana, Alabama and Kentucky are considering similar bans to gay adoption. Mississippi bans adoption by co-habitating unmarried people, which includes gays but not single gays. Arkansas, until a recent court case, prohibited gays and anyone living with a gay person from being foster parents. The case is on appeal, and the Arkansas legislature is considering ways to reinstate the law, Cates said. In most states, the statutes are unclear as to how easily the partner of a gay parent can also adopt the partnerâ€™s child.
â€śEvery year states grapple with this, but thereâ€™s been a slight increase the past few months. In the last year, the fear and desperation from the right has become extreme,â€ť he said.
Cates also said restrictions on who can adopt only makes it harder for child welfare workers to do their job: finding good homes for children.
â€śThe broadest pool is the way to go. If a person canâ€™t be a good parent that comes out in the screening process. Most child welfare advocates agree that gay parents are no better or worse than heterosexual parents.â€ť
Last Thursday, when asked about the Florida law, President Bush told the New York Times that the â€śideal in society is to raise children with a man and a woman...A married man and a woman.â€ť He concluded that studies have demonstrated this.
It was soon after Bush weighed in on a similar social matter that 13 states added bans to same-sex marriage to their constitutions, with another 10 set to consider bans by 2006.
Was the President setting the stage for another conservative wave of legislation, backed up by the Supreme Court, that would determine the structure of gay families? Was Virginia simply the first? Executive Director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Andrea Hildebran doesnâ€™t think so.
â€śIf there is, I havenâ€™t seen it yet,â€ť she said. She said any bill to ban gay people from adopting in Kentucky hasnâ€™t yet been introduced to the legislature. â€śIâ€™ve heard that something has been drafted, but were hopeful it wonâ€™t be filed.â€ť
Proposed gay adoption bans are nothing new in Kentucky, but in the past have been sponsored by very conservative members, always an obstacle in their passage.
â€śI think they are working to find a more mainstream sponsor,â€ť Hildebran said.
H.B. 2401, before the Oregon legislature would mandate preferential treatment be given in adoption to heterosexual, married couples over single or gay-partnered parents. The bill says no child should go to gay parents if qualified heterosexual parents are also available.
While Roey Thorpe, Basic Rights Oregonâ€™s Executive Director said this bill isnâ€™t a result of the Supreme Courtâ€™s recent action, she did link it to the November 2004 election in which Oregon voters passed a ban on same-sex marriage in the state.
â€śThere was a lot of talk about parenting and adoption. Benefiting the welfare of children was the primary message of the groups pushing the ballot measure. This bill is a direct result of that campaign.â€ť
Thorpe does see a link between the nationwide drive to ban gay marriage and the idea that gay people shouldnâ€™t have children.
â€śIt goes way beyond just marriage. The entire movement is based on antiquated ideas about what society should look like and stereo-typed gender roles,â€ť she said. Calling Oregon a right-wing laboratory, Thorpe warned that if the bill passed in her state, other states would see similar measures.
Lisa Bennett, Director of the Family Project at the Human Rights Campaign, the nationâ€™s largest LGBT political group, said there as yet hasnâ€™t been a groundswell to ban gay adoption. â€śThereâ€™s always a state considering it, but itâ€™s not dramatically different from what we see every year.â€ť
If anything, the news is the opposite. â€śThe trend in the courts is in the direction of allowing same-sex couples to adopt. And the idea that gay families are bad for children is such an obvious contradiction of the facts, that I donâ€™t think these bans will go far,â€ť she said.
As for lawmakers who now assume the Supreme Court has ensured their bills will hold up under a constitutional challenge, Cates said they are being hasty.
â€śJust because the Supreme Courtâ€™s declined to take a case, doesnâ€™t mean theyâ€™ve issued a decision one way or another. Itâ€™s certainly not a decision on the Florida law. Itâ€™s common for the Supreme Court to not interpret laws based on their own decisions for a number of years until waiting to see how lower courts have interpreted it.â€ť
A small consolation for the estimated 3,000 children languishing in Floridaâ€™s foster care system.