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December 13, 2011

Children Lose When the Government is Involved

Last week, tragedy struck Ann Arbor, Michigan. Seven year old, Cecilia Lewis suffered not only the death of her biological father, Jeremy but also has been removed from her other parent, Taylor, and placed in foster care. Cecilia had spent her whole life with her Jeremy and Taylor, and both Taylor and Jeremy were both adored by the community. Jeremy was the principal at the local high school and an avid member of church, and Taylor was a social worker who created an afterschool program for disadvantaged youth. However, their elevated status in society could not help their situation. Taylor and Jeremy were not legally married, so Taylor did not have any legal rights over Cecilia.
If Taylor had been a woman, she would have maintained custody and been granted all of the legal rights that married partners are granted when having a child, even if she and Jeremy were not married. However, because the couple live in a state where same-sex marriage is illegal, and since Taylor is a man, not only does he lose out on those rights, but young Cecilia does too.

Second parent adoption, a process in which the partner of the biological parent is granted joint custody of a child, is a complex process regardless of who is attempting to adopt a child. However, homosexual couples face even greater challenges than most. Current policies are unclear as three states in the nation (Arkansas, Mississippi, and Utah) prohibit same-sex adoption, and the statutes for other states are vague. This vagueness allows for bias, discrimination, and personal beliefs of the organization to make the decisions about who can adopt. For example, 47 states allow a single male or female to adopt, and only 10 states clearly state that joint adoption is legal.

The United States needs a federal law that allows same-sex couples to participate in second-parent adoption because it is the child who feels the negative effects of current policies. Some of these important benefits that homosexual families do not receive are that the children cannot use the adoptive parent’s insurance, social security, or inheritance, nor can they be treated in an emergency room without the biological parent present. The most important benefit that the children are denied is the right to live with their second parent if the biological parent dies.

The problem is that currently, adoption agencies are essentially deciding whether the couple’s character and morals adhere to that of the reasonable man. And herein lies the crux of the matter; the adoption process is too subjective. The definition of morality is abstract and viewed quite differently by different people. Religious institutions may view homosexuality as immoral and may deny a homosexual couple the right to adopt a child based on these beliefs. But this is the United States, where all are created equal. For a country which preaches the importance of equality, there is a large population who are discriminated against, and a change needs to be made. Only a federal law can erase the subjectivity that is oppressing homosexual couples and denying them equal rights to their children.
One of the main arguments against same-sex adoption is that a child is negatively impacted by homosexual parents. But this is fabrication. Research, by Stacey & Biblarz (2001), shows that just because a parent may be homosexual, there is not a difference in sexual preference when compared to the children of heterosexual parents. Sons of homosexual males tend to be less sexually adventurous and chaster than the sons of heterosexual couples, and children living with homosexual parents may act in less gender stereotypic ways.

Another important factor to consider is the mental health of the child. Once again, research indicates that contrary to popular belief, there is no significant difference in the level of anxiety, depression, or self-esteem in children living with homosexual parents, compared to heterosexual parents. Also, homosexual parents often have greater synchronicity in their parenting techniques that lead to more harmony within the home.
Children need psychological and legal security. Children cannot control the type of family that they are born into and should not be discriminated against and punished for the type of family in which they are raised. This is a federal issue, as it is evident that there is much gray area and discrimination in each state, and it is children who are suffering because of it. We as a country need to vote to make legal changes in order to help these children.

Alissa Bleecker
1st year MSW student
University of Michigan School of Social Work
Striving to insure equality for all children.
Word Count: 746
To be sent to “The New York Times” because, as the paper describes, this is a Federal issue, and the New York Times is well respected national publication.


References
Holmes, O.W. (1929) The reasonable man. Supreme Court, 150-151.
Huss, M. T. (2009). What is Forensic Psychology? An Introduction. Forensic psychology: research, clinical practice, and application. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 5-6.
Johnson R. (2008). Where is gay adoption legal? Gay and lesbian adoption. About.com Retrieved September 13, 2011.
Kennedy, R. (2005). Lesbian and Gay Families: The changing and unsteady legal and social environment. Social Work Practice with Children and Families: A Family Health Approach, 165-182.
Knowles, D. (2010). Florida gay adoption ban overturned, but three states still restrict it. Aol News. http://www.aolnews.com/. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
Stacey, J., & Biblarz, T. J. (2001). (How) Does the sexual orientation of parents matter? American Sociological Review, 66, 159-183.

Posted by desolada at December 13, 2011 09:59 AM

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