Same-Sex Adoptions: Should Partners Have Legal Custody
Nov. 2, 2000 -- It's a poignant issue. A gay or lesbian couple love each other, have a long-standing relationship, and wish to adopt a child -- yet they must face their state's adoption laws. While most states allow gay men and lesbians to adopt as single parents, their partners are very often not allowed custody rights. One common rationale: that same-sex parenting will have adverse effects on the child's development.
Actually, children thrive in same-sex families, concludes one Yale psychiatrist after reviewing more than 30 years' of research.
"Same-sex adoption does not generally have any significant detrimental effects on a child's development and can, in fact, add to a child's emotional and financial security," says Scott V. DiBartolo, MD, a researcher with the Yale University Child Study Center. He presented his findings at a recent meeting of child psychiatrists in New York.
DiBartolo's research included many aspects of same-sex parenting: effects on the child's peer relations; relations with adults of both sexes; gender identity; sexual orientation; and psychological, social, and moral development. He also looked at incidence of sexual abuse among gays and lesbians, and differences in emotional and financial security that come with being the adoptive child of one rather than two parents.
"Allowing for same-sex adoption would be in the best interest of the child," concludes DiBartolo.
"I absolutely agree," says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor and chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "I think the most important thing for a child is to be in a loving, nurturing, warm, and stable family environment whether it's a heterosexual family, grandparents, an extended family, or a same-sex couples ... Many same-sex couples are very stable. Good relationships are good relationships, and the good ones are stable, committed, and those people make very good parents."
Do same-sex couples affect the child's gender identity or sexual orientation? "No one knows," Kaslow tells WebMD. "Nobody really knows what multiple factors go into that and whether it's different for boys than girls. ...In terms of social, moral, and psychological development, what's more important is the quality of the attachments, the quality of parents' psychological well-being, and the quality of the home life that's created."
In raising any child, says Kaslow, "it's important for children to have multiple role models in addition to the parents. If the parents aren't interested in sports or the arts or whatever, it helps to get role models who are. For example, "lesbian couples may want to have male role models," she says.
When partners are not allowed to adopt, "it creates huge problems," says Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin, Esq., past chair of the American Bar Association's Family Law Section. "What rights does the partner have to take the kid to the hospital if there's an emergency? He's not the legal parent; he can't go in with the child. We have the same problem with grandparents taking care of kids."