Bill Seeks End to Anti-Gay Adoption Laws
California Congressman Pete Stark has re-introduced a measure that would eradicate discrimination in adoption and foster care, promising needy children loving, stable homes and offering hope to gay, lesbian, and unmarried heterosexual families wanting to welcome children into their lives.
Rep. Stark, a Democrat, is the ranking member on the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee. Stark and 33 original cosponsors reintroduced the "Every Child Deserves a Family Act" on May 3, a press release from the representative’s office said.
"The legislation would set a federal baseline that puts an end to prejudiced restrictions that have denied an untold number of children the homes that they desperately need," read the release. "The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would ban discrimination in adoption or foster care placement based on the sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity of the potential parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child."
"We now spend more than $7 billion per year on a flawed foster care system that doesn’t serve all the children who are in it, and permits discrimination against capable, loving potential parents and children," noted Stark. "It’s time for a federal fix to this critical child welfare and civil rights issue. Every child deserves the lifelong benefits that come from growing up in a stable home."
"The facts are clear: Children fare far better in a safe, supportive, loving home," stated cosponsor Rep. Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington. "Just like straight parents, lesbian and gay parents can provide this, yet many states won’t allow it, while using federal funds to discriminate.
"This legislation simply says to states, ’If you choose to use federal dollars, you can’t discriminate against prospective parents--or against these children,’ " McDermott continued. "This is about common sense and fairness."
"The United States currently has an uneven system of state laws, a number of which put up barriers to becoming a foster or adoptive parent based on one’s sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity," the release said. "A handful of states affirmatively allow gay men and lesbians to adopt jointly, while most states are silent on the issue. Stark’s legislation would correct the patchwork system in the best interests of the children involved."
The bill was hailed by child welfare and family parity advocates.
"Far too many children in foster care have little hope for a permanent family and end up being parented by the government," Linda Spears, Vice President, Policy and Public Affairs for the Child Welfare League of America, said.
"We must support all qualified adults who are interested in providing a nurturing, adoptive home--regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation," Spears added. "Having a real live, caring parent is incredibly important for ensuring a child’s success. Rep. Stark’s bill represents progress for these children whose goal is to simply be loved."
"There is an undisputed child welfare crisis in this country, with more than 500,000 children in foster care and 120,000 of them available for adoption. It is time to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act to end this unconscionable problem," stated the executive director of the Family Equality Council, Jennifer Chrisler.
"One in four children in this country is being raised by a single parent, two million children are being raised in LGBT households," Chrisler went on. "We all recognize there is no single type of family in America anymore. We must not allow anyone to use politically motivated and specious arguments about safeguarding traditional family structures to deny families to children in need."
"We know that when youth are in loving homes with families to support them, a whole host of risk factors decrease - they are less likely to experience poverty, homelessness, incarceration, mental illness, and pregnancy," the head of PFLAG National, Jody Huckaby, noted. "Our organization has been supporting parents, families and children all over the country for over 35 years, and we know from our experience that it is in the best interest of every child--and, in fact, the right of every child--to have the loving care and support of a family."
The measure was proposed in the last Congress, noted Project Queer in a March 22 article. "As it was previously written, the bill would restrict federal funds for states if they have laws or practices that discriminate in adoption on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," Project Queer reported.
"The House version of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act was modeled after the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act of 1994 as amended in 1996, which similarly prohibits states from receiving federal funds if they engage in racial or ethnic discrimination when placing children in homes," the article added.
"May is Foster Care Awareness Month," observed a media release from the National Black justice Coalition. "There is no better time to highlight a growing child welfare crisis where an estimated half a million children are in the U.S. foster care system," the release continued. "120,000 of those could be adopted, but each year 25,000 children ’age out’ before finding a loving family."
The release went on to state, "According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 30 percent of foster youth across the nation are black. Black youth are found in disproportionate numbers in the foster system, yet they are not finding the permanent homes they need. They represent only 25 percent of the children who are adopted.
"The introduction of this legislation is timely, as multiple states -- including Virginia, Illinois and Arizona -- have moved recently to prevent people from becoming foster or adoptive parents based on his or her sexual orientation or marital status," the release continued. "Discriminatory restrictions in other states, including Florida and Arkansas, have been the subject of ongoing legal action."
Gay and lesbian families could become a major part of the solution, the release suggested.
"There are already one million LGBT parents raising two million children in our country today and that number is growing," noted the NBJC release. "According to analysis of the 2010 Census data, a sizable number of these parents are African American and Latino and are raising their children to love their country, respect their neighbors, worship a loving God, and contribute to their communities."
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Stark decried "homophobic opposition that has tried to decide that gay people aren’t suitable adoptive parents."
The May 3 Huffington Post article related that anti-gay politician Rick Santorum had attempted to make gay and lesbian families a talking point, telling one lesbian "that it was a ’privilege,’ not a ’right,’ to be a parent." Santorum gained notoriety when he compared committed same-sex families to practitioners of bestiality, dismissing gay and lesbian unions as being on par with "man on dog" sex.
"I take exception to" such proclamations, Stark declared. "We have a tremendous need for adoptive parents in this country. We’ve got thousands of kids who would otherwise be stuck in foster care, which isn’t a very good place for them to end up. This is a human rights issue."
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate, according to the release from Rep. Stark’s office.