One of the biggest social justice and welfare issues concerning the nation today is the welfare of its children. What everyone can agree upon is that child welfare is of the utmost importance. What people cannot agree upon is how best to increase the health and welfare of the nation’s children. One topic in the hot-seat of the nation’s current debate on child welfare is whether or not gay and lesbians should be allowed to adopt children. According to a 2006 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) book, in 2006 there were 500,000 children in the American foster care system with 119,000 of these children waiting to be adopted and not able to be placed with families.
Today’s opponents of gay and lesbian adoption have a variety of arguments concerning why only biological parents or a married man and woman couple should be allowed to adopt a child. However, research over the past quarter of a century shows that many of the arguments that opponents make against gay and lesbian adoption are unfounded and that gays and lesbians can be equally good parents as straight parents. Common arguments opponents make include that children need both a mother and a father, that being raised by a gay parent will cause a child to become gay, and that kids whose parents are gay are susceptible to bullying. These arguments of opponents need to be refuted in terms of what factors children truly do need for healthy development. Disallowing parents the right to adopt based on their sexual orientation presents not only a human and civil rights issue, but also a social justice issue of immense proportion for the thousands of children in the foster care system who need families to adopt them.
There are three main factors that positively influence the development of children, supported by over 50 years of research by developmental psychologists. These three factors include quality parenting, a good relationship between the parents, and having enough economic resources.
Opponents of gays and lesbians being able to adopt argue that in order for children to develop in a healthy way, it is not just having two parents, but having two biologically related parents that causes this healthy development. Although many of the arguments come from religious conservatives, proponents of this view also say their argument is scientifically based; they may say that since only a man and a woman can procreate, it is only a man and a woman couple who are appropriate parents for a child. To their minds, the idea of natural selection means that gay and lesbians have opted out of the procreation and parenting aspect of the human race. This is one of the many misapplications of the theory of evolution that people try to use to make an argument against gay and lesbian parenting appear to be scientifically based. In addition to the idea that gay and lesbian parents are evolutionarily unfit as parents, according to this statement since children’s development appears to depend on having two biologically-related parents, all adoption as well as single parenthood should be outlawed. The argument that children are better off with two parents than one has basis in scientific research; however, this research supports the idea that children are better off with two parents regardless of those parents’ sexual orientation.
When the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supported legislation allowing lesbian couples to co-adopt, meaning that both women could be considered to be the legal parents of their child, The Washington Times accused the AAP of pandering to the political agendas of gay rights . However, according to research concerning whether or not gays and lesbians can be good parents, the overwhelming conclusion is that gay and lesbian parents are expected to be fine parents, that their parentage will have no negative effect on children due to the parents’ sexual orientation, and that children can ably deal with this family. Studies have also been conducted regarding whether or not having homosexual parents causes children to be confused about gender identity or more likely to be homosexuals as well. While researchers admit that they know little about why men and women are gay or lesbian, their research into families with gay and lesbian parents show that children of these parents are not confused about their own gender or more likely to be gay themselves. In fact, studies have found a positive factor because children of lesbian parents more often feel less limited by sexual stereotypes than those raised by straight parents.
The argument against gays and lesbians being able to adopt because their children may be subject to teasing and bullying has also been a subject of research. The unfortunate fact is that almost all children are teased and bullied. Studies have shown that children of gay and lesbian parents do not experience teasing at a higher rate than other children. Bullying itself is a societal problem, and preventing gays from adopting will not end this kind of behavior among children.
The laws and policies preventing people from fostering and adopting children based on their sexual orientation present a social injustice affecting the lives of tens of thousands of children each year who could find homes with loving parents if these laws were reversed. It is sad that many of the children in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption age out once they reach age 18, never having found an adoptive parent or parents. Policies that exclude gays and lesbians from adopting do not mean that more heterosexual couples will adopt children; what it does mean is that there are many willing and able gay and lesbian couples who are not able to adopt children, leaving those children to remain in the foster system without a family to call their own. The more research that is done concerning issues regarding gay and lesbian parenthood shows that sexual orientation has nothing to do with the ability to be a good parent. The social injustice of laws prohibiting homosexual people to foster or adopt children must be reversed because society must make use of all willing and able people in the best interest of its children.
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