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Over the pas couple of decades American society has undergone some vast changes. The concept of the family has been greatly altered. No longer is such emphasis put on the "traditional" family. A majority of children are being raised in single parent households. Single parent adoption rights have been granted. Now an entirely new sort of family is being disputed. Should gays and lesbians be granted the right to adopt a child? Today's view of gays and lesbians is drastically differen t than it was in the past. As more people "come out of the closet" gays and lesbians are becoming more socially accepted. They currently are battling for equality in a variety of areas. In Hawaii gays and lesbians can be granted marriage righ ts, which was a huge victory until DOMA was passed. The Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as DOMA, was a bill proposed by conservative Congressmen and Senator Bob Dole. Dole says, "DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman for a ll federal purposes (taxes, Social Security, veterans' benefits, etc.) and says that states don't have to pay attention to the Constitution if they don't want to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in any other state" (Winters 1). President Bill Clinton, who openly expresses his opposition to same-sex marriages, signed the bill making it a law. Gays and lesbians continue to fight. Recently the fights have been centered on adoption. This new dilemma has created quite a stir in society.
It is estimated that the number of children being raised by gay or lesbian parents is between 2 and 6 million. It is extremely hard to get an accurate estimation due to the fact that many gays and lesbias are not open about their family structure. These people do not want to be surveyed for fear of losing their children. In a population where roughly 10% or 25 million people are reported to be homosexual the numbers of those raising children are outstanding (Collum 1).
There are three main ways that gays and lesbians are raising children and acquiring families without the courts becoming involved. The first way, which is also the most common way, is when heterosexual marriages dissolve after one parent apparentl y "comes out.
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In most cases everyone just wants what is best for the child. This brings on the question if being raised in a same-sex dominated environment will have a psychological effect on the child. The fact still remains that the traumas and hardships fac ed by both the parents and the children of gay and lesbian households will be totally different from those faced by heterosexual families. This is why many gay and lesbian families keep their family structure so secretive, to avoid the comments, teasing, and publicity surrounding their private lives. Though we all recognize the fact that the traditional view of the family has been altered significantly, can the family be altered to that much of an extent?
Adoption is the only other method for gays and lesbians to acquire children. This is the most difficult, technical, and risky way to have a child. It is so risky because cases can vary depending on the judge's personal views and opinions on this issue. Most courts make their jurisdiction based on what they feel will be the result of a child growing up in a gay or lesbian household. Homosexual couple's custody rights are nearly always at risk in the common jurisdictions. Continually courts rule that a child's best interest is met in the homes of heterosexual parents. One major reasoning for this is due to the fact that though the court does acknowledge that a gay or lesbians' sexuality is beyond their control, living with someone of the same s ex can be controlled. There are five main points that courts generally use when making their jurisdiction in adoption cases and custody/visitation rights:
1. Is the homosexual parent living with his or her lover, and if so will this cause the
child to have learn to adapt to a totally different lifestyle?
` 2. How does society currently view same-sex relationships, and how have courts
recently ruled in similar cases?
3. What would the pressures and problems be placed on the child?
4. Is there an effect of the lack of a role model on the child during formative years?
5. Is the parent/child relationship detrimental if parental rights are terminated?
(Kagan et al. 40-41)
Adoption rights vary greatly from state to state, and as previously stated due to the passing of DOMA states do not have to recognize the adoption rights of same-sex marriages legal in other states. In Pennsylvania there are no laws that specify g ay and lesbian adoption rights. Anyone is eligible to adopt, however, they must go through a court investigation to evaluate the persons suitability of being a parent. In New Hampshire and Florida gays and lesbians can't adopt. Virginia, Arkansas, Miss ouri, and North Dakota feel that gay and lesbian parents are "unfit" (Henry III 67).
There is one alternative for gays and lesbians to acquire a child that is relatively new. It is called either same-sex adoption, second-parent adoption, or most commonly co-parent adoption. Co-parent adoption is a type of "loop-hole" fo r gays and lesbians seeking to adopt. In these types of adoptions there is one legal parent and that legal parent consents to the adoption of a co-parent without losing any of his or her legal parental rights. Even in the most recent cases where two bio logical parents divorce and one parent becomes involved in a same-sex relationship, a third party can be granted co-adoption rights without either biological parent having to give up his/her rights. Co-parent adoption seems to be the most effective way f or gays and lesbians to acquire legal rights. Alaska, California, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania are states that have either ruled on cases regarding co-parent adoptions or formally condone this t ype of adoption. There are only two general requirements in order to attain co-parent adoption rights: the legal parents and or guardians must give their consent, and it must be found that the adoption will be in the child's best interest (Collum 1,3).< /P>
In a society that is drastically changing every day, the amount of moral and ethical issues seem virtuously endless. Many older generations argue that the future of our country is in great trouble because of the children today. It is not the chil dren today, it is the way that children are being raised today. Many sociologists argue that children aren't just raised by their parents, but by an entire society. If this is in fact true, then how will a child raised by gay or lesbian parents turn out ? More importantly is the question of how society will treat and respond to a child brought up by gays or lesbians. When a child is involved in any situation the situation is immediately put in a more elevated position. The effect that situations have on children can traumatize them for years. In extreme cases, some adults never fully recover from traumas faced by them during childhood.
In a landmark case that made national headlines, a Virginia judge ruled two lesbians as unfit parents based on the one and only fact that they were lesbians. Sharon Bottom and her lover April Wade had raised Tyler for two years. Sharon had gotten divorced after having Tyler, and April and sharon had lived as though Tyler was their own. Sharon's mother Kay challenged their custody rights and won. After the court case went public, Sharon and April became national symbols. All the Conservatives a pplauded the judge while the Liberals were outraged and exploited the case as being prejudiced. One positive result of the case was the questions it sparked in the minds of those who were ignorant to situations like this. Society began to question thing s like homosexual prejudices, heterosexuals being exposed to homosexual lifestyles, psychologial effects on children, etc. (Henry III 66).
Despite the court rulings and societies' opinions, gays and lesbians are acquiring children. Whether it is from a previous heterosexual marriage gone bad, artificial insemination, an agreement between a gay and lesbian, or co-parent adoption gays and lesbians will continue to fight for their rights and find ways to create a family of their own. The most effective way that seems to meet everyone's needs is co-parent adoption. Perhaps the states that allow co-parent adoption will be more likely to allow complete gay and lesbian adoption rights in the future. This hypothesis seems very probably. Studies are constantly being done to attempt to find the effects on the children of these families. Results of these types of studies vary. It is hard to make accurate assumptions based on the fact that many gay and lesbian families live in secret. We are on the right track with gaining acceptance of homosexual lifestyles, but society still has a long way to go. In my opinion there are four things tha t must be taken into account when considering the issue from a non-biased stand point: 1. The rights of the gays and lesbians; 2. The rights of the child; 3. The way society will treat the child; 4. The psychological effects on the child.