Thereâ€™s finally some good news for gay and lesbian families when it comes to putting their rights to a test at the ballot box: A much-anticipated and highly feared state-by-state push to ban gay and lesbian people from adopting children seems not to have gotten off the ground.
Indeed, so far only one state legislature Ă˘â‚¬â€ť Ohio â€” has seen such a bill proposed, and even there, it appears likely to fail.
Many gay activists had anticipated that a rash of anti-gay adoption laws might sweep numerous states, on the heels of the successful anti-gay marriage laws that voters overwhelming supported when they hit the ballot boxes.
Gay rights activists expected there could be proposed anti-gay adoption bans this year in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, as well as Ohio.
But so far this year, at least, only Ohio has seen a bill introduced in the state legislature that would ban gay and lesbian people from adopting children.
And even there, the bill looks headed for defeat.
The Ohio bill would prohibit a person from adopting â€śif the individual is a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender individual; the individual is a stepparent of the child to be adopted and is a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender individual; the individual resides with an individual who the court determines is a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender individual.â€ť
But as soon as this bill was introduced, the stateâ€™s GOP House Speaker Jon Husted called it â€śdivisive,â€ť signaling it did not have the needed support of the Republican leadership there, and would probably fail.
â€śThereâ€™s growing concern within the Republican Party of continuing to introduce this divisive legislation,â€ť Hustedâ€™s chief of staff, Scott Borgemenke, told the Associated Press. â€śWe donâ€™t think thereâ€™s some cottage industry of homosexual adoptions. We do believe people are losing their jobs.â€ť
These remarks are a sign of hope, coming as they do from the spokesperson of a GOP House leader in the state that decided George W. Bushâ€™s presidential victory in the last electionâ€”at least in part due to an anti-gay marriage referendum on Ohioâ€™s ballot.
While Bushâ€™s anti-gay vilification was terribly successful in the presidential election, it appears that the tactic doesnâ€™t have undue staying power, and that maybe the tactic isnâ€™t transferable to other anti-gay issues besides marriage.
There are other signs this is true, especially on the issue of allowing gay and lesbian people to adopt children. In 2005, seven states saw measures introduced that would have banned adoption by gay and lesbian people. In some of those states, the ban would have gone even further and prohibited gay and lesbian people from becoming foster parents, as well.
But those attempts failed in all seven states.
Currently, only the state of Florida has an outright ban against gay and lesbian people adopting kids. However, Utah restricts adoptions to married couples, effectively cutting gays and lesbians out of adopting in that state. Mississippi prohibits adoptions by gay couples, but not specifically by gay or lesbian individuals. While Arkansas and Nebraska do not currently ban gays and lesbians from adopting, they prevent them from becoming foster parents.
But even in some of these severe instances, the atmosphere may be shifting.
In Florida, for example, overturning the anti-gay adoption ban in the conservative state legislature is unlikely. However, this year a bill was introduced that would give judges the authority to maneuver against the ban and decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not a gay or lesbian applicant could provide a good environment for raising a child.
If a judge decided a gay or lesbian person could do so, the judge could grant that specific person or couple the right to adopt.
The bill was introduced to help gay and lesbian people who are already foster parents adopt the children in their care. While the bill has been temporarily tabled in committee, gay and lesbian activists there say it is not dead, and is even close to passing favorably out of committee.
Studies have repeatedly shown that children raised by gay and lesbian parents do equally well in development and achievement as children raised by heterosexuals. Indeed, some studies have suggested that gay and lesbian couples offers children a slight advantage in academic achievement. Social scientists have speculated the slight advantage may come from the fact that same-sex parents, particularly lesbian parents, shower children with attention, including in their academic endeavors.
Thereâ€™s absolutely no evidence that children raised by gays and lesbians suffer, or that those children are any more likely to turn out to be gay or lesbian than children raised by heterosexuals.
The far right and religious right would have Americans believe that gays and lesbians want to adopt in order to â€śexperimentâ€ť with children, or as a method of â€śrecruiting.â€ť Some have also suggested that gays may want to adopt kids in order to sexually molest them, a charge that scientific studies find totally unfounded.
The truth is that many gays and lesbians adopt children that are hard to place: children with HIV, for example, or children with special learning needs or disabilities.
Of course, the relatively good news so far on the lack of anti-gay adoption bills is not a reason to let down our guard. Some activists who work on this issue recently told the Washington Blade, a D.C. gay paper, that they think the adoption bills are not sprouting up because it simply hasnâ€™t been the right timing yet. It is still possible for them to gain momentum, the activists warn.
But so far, at least, there is some hope in the lack of anti-gay adoption bills on the legislative scene this year.
Maybe Americans are finally recognizing that the childâ€™s best interest really is a more important consideration than the unfounded prejudices of anti-gay fear-mongerers.