Adoption Equality

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"We want to be able to adopt our own kids." For many same-sex couples like April De Boer and Jayne Rowse, who are raising four young children in Michigan, that was the main reason they wanted the right to marry. Each mom had adopted two kids, but as unmarried partners, they couldn't jointly adopt. So if April died or became incapacitated, there was no way to ensure that Jayne would get custody of April's two kids, and vice versa.

You might think the Supreme Court's June decision announcing nationwide marriage equality also resolved the parental rights of same-sex couples across the country. But state adoption laws remain a hodgepodge, and in many states, marriage equality has not translated into adoption equality.  

Mississippi, for example, still bans adoption by same-sex couples. So Janet Smith and Donna Phillips, though now legally married, still have had to sue the Magnolia State so that Janet can adopt the couple's 8-year old daughter.

Other states have put up roadblocks for same-sex couples wanting to adopt. Michigan recently passed a law letting state-funded adoption agencies turn away prospective parents based on the agencies' religious beliefs - effectively giving agents of the state a license to discriminate against gay couples. Virginia and North Dakota have similar laws in place, and other states are considering them.

These laws hinder the adoption of many children in need of loving homes. They also fly in the face of the Supreme Court's June decision, which linked the right to marry and the right to raise children, and struck down state marriage bans partly because they harmed gay families. 


At least Michigan now let's married same-sex partners jointly adopt the kids they have, so April De Boer and Jayne Rowse have a path to protect their family. Escorted down the aisle by their little ones, the couple legally tied the knot in August. And in the coming days, the proud parents will finally be able to adopt their own kids.

With a Perspective, I'm Clyde Wadsworth. 

Clyde Wadsworth is an attorney practicing business and civil rights law.