Across most of the U.S., LGBT people and couples can petition family courts to provide their children with legal ties to their parents. Family courts are responsible for making case-by-case decisions based on the best interests of a child, and their expertise and authority in determining the fitness of adoptive parents – gay or straight – is traditionally acknowledged and respected.
Most states do not have blanket policies on adoption by gay and lesbian couples. In a few states, however, anti-gay activists have sought to circumvent family courts by proposing sweeping laws that would ban adoption by gay and lesbian people and couples. See Appendix B: Anti-Gay Federal & State Laws for a list of states with anti-gay adoption bans.
Single-parent adoption by lesbian, gay and bisexual parents is permitted in most states and the District of Columbia. Joint adoption and/or second-parent adoption – where a parent co-adopts his or her partner's child, thus providing the security that comes with having two legally connected parents – is permitted by statute or appellate court decisions in several states.
For further information, please contact the Family Equality Council, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU or Lambda Legal (see Directory of Community Resources).
RESEARCH ON PARENTING & ADOPTION
Discussions about research on children raised by gay and lesbian parents often become mired in divisive political rhetoric by those opposed to gay parents and legal protections for their families.
Those who oppose parenting by gay and lesbian couples often make two claims: first, that "all" social science research shows that children do best when raised by married opposite-sex parents, and, second, that any study that shows otherwise is flawed.
In fact, there is a large and growing body of literature that focuses on family structure and outcomes for children raised by their gay or lesbian parents. These studies have consistently shown that parenting by gay or lesbian parents has no adverse effects on children.
Additionally, nearly every credible authority on child welfare (including the Child Welfare League of America, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics) has determined that a person's sexual orientation has nothing to do with the ability to be a good, loving, effective parent.
Most of the studies cited by those opposed to gay families have a significant flaw: they do not study gay families. Instead, they generally compare children with single parents to those living with their married parents. As such, it is inappropriate to use this research to argue that the sexual orientation or the gender-composition of parents affects the well-being of their children.
By the same token, it is important to note that research does not show that children with gay or lesbian parents are "exactly the same" as kids with straight parents. There may indeed be differences (for example, one study found that female children of lesbian parents are more willing to consider career paths that could be thought of as atypical for women). The relevant question is whether such differences are harmful; and again, the considerable body of research demonstrates that they are not.
Media sometimes unintentionally but inaccurately frame discussions about gay and lesbian parenting as a false dichotomy, pitting parenting by opposite-sex couples against parenting by gay or lesbian couples. Research shows that men and women with good parenting skills come in all types – gay and straight. Academics and practitioners agree that sexual orientation is not a factor when it comes to good parenting.
GLAAD encourages media to share the stories of gay and lesbian families as they are, on their own terms, without requiring them to defend themselves against the attacks of those who believe they shouldn't be allowed to exist. For additional information on research related to lesbian and gay parenting, please contact the Child Welfare League of America, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law (see Directory of Community Resources).
LANGUAGE & TERMINOLOGY
When reporting on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families, it is important to treat those families, parents and children with dignity and respect – both during the newsgathering process and in the language used to tell their stories.
Never put quotation marks around descriptions such as family, parents, mothers or fathers when describing gay and lesbian families. Such tactics are often used by anti-gay groups to denigrate, delegitimize and dehumanize loving families.