Monday, July 11, 2011

Will Marriage Equality Create Adoption Boom? Why?

I was checking out my main e-mail account this evening and came across this article: "Gay Marriage Raises Prospect of NY Adoption Boom".  According to the article, now that gay and lesbian couples are able to legally marry in the state of New York (next month, anyway), adoption attorneys and agencies are preparing for a "baby boom" by gay and lesbian couples.  Which makes no sense to me given that gay and lesbian individuals and couples have had the ability to adopt in New York State for years.  So why would more of them suddenly want to adopt now as opposed to last year or the year before?

Here's the theory:
The state already permits unmarried couples, both gay and straight, to adopt children. But a wedding ring is an important milestone in a relationship — and can also bolster a couple's case as they try to impress social workers, adoption agencies and birth mothers during the often competitive adoption process, couples and adoption experts say...

Experts won't know for sure whether adoptions have increased in the five other states, plus Washington, D.C., that have legalized gay marriage until the results of the 2010 census are released this year, said Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California-Los Angeles.

But nationwide, about 19,000 gay couples had adopted children as of 2009, he said. That's up from 10,700 couples in 2000 — the same year Vermont began offering civil unions and four years before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
The problem with those stats is that they don't really indicate to the readers whether that 8,000 per year increase in adoptive couples occurred in states like Vermont and Massachusetts where gay and lesbian families were respected under the law, or if those adoption were increasing throughout the country.  Additionally, the New York Times recently published census materials that indicated higher numbers of gay and lesbian households raising children in the US South than in any other region of the country.  We are talking about states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.  Those are hardly gay marriage-friendly states.  So why would they profit from New York's marriage rights and responsibilities?

I had a conversation with a younger (than me) lesbian this afternoon who really wants to adopt some day and she kept trying to link the progression of getting married and then adopting and struggling with the reality that she's not married and not likely to get married anytime soon.  In her mind, adoption workers won't look at her as seriously as a prospective adoptive parent who is married.  Which of course made me think back to my own pre-marriage adoption history and the above-mentioned NYT article about coupled gays who lack the legal rights of marriage and second-parent adoption, but who make do.  I reminded her that there are options.  It might not be a perfect situation and it might not be legally recognized, but that gay and lesbian people have been creating informal families of choice for decades. 

It's easy to get stuck in a heteronormative mindset, but sometimes circumstances force you to look into Plan B or Plan C or even Plan Q.  And even though Plan A might seem like the only good option at this point in time, too many of us have found ourselves in the midst of Plan Q and found it unexpectedly wonderful.

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