Legal Rights for Same-Sex Couples & Adoption

You may recall back in June of 2015 a landmark event in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can now legally marry in all 50 states of the US. I remember celebrating that day with my girlfriend at the time. And while we were definitely not going to get married since we were only in highschool, this was still a monumental advancement for the LGBTQA community. Love had finally been recognized for same-sex couples.

While this was an incredible event in US history, it hasn’t solved all of the issues the LGBTQA community faces. Even though these couples can legally get married, there has always been a struggle for them when it comes to adoption. I’d like to think that gay and lesbian families are finding it easier to adopt children and that adoption rates have increased significantly since the Supreme Court ruling. I have not been able to find many statistics for adoption rates after the ruling, however, but I did find some surrounding adoption and same-sex couples in general. On average, 135,000 children are adopted every year in the United States. Also in the US, more than 16,000 same-sex couples are raising about 22,000 adopted children. Even with these encouraging statistics, people still fight same-sex couples from having rights to adopt.

Over the past few decades, certain legal and policy issues have been raised in court focusing on how laws should regulate families headed by non-heterosexual couples. The majority of the questions raised focus on the safety of the child and what is best for them. This relates to child custody battles. If an opposite-sex couple separates because one member came out as gay, then this could place restrictions on that member for child custody and visitation. States vary significantly when it comes to rights given to same-sex couples. For Massachusetts and California custody/ visitation disputes, the parents’ sexual orientations are not considered relevant. However in other states, their sexual orientation is considered relevant only if a definite negative effect can be seen on the child. This is somewhat difficult to measure, though, so the court is more likely to rule in favor of the non-heterosexual parents. Unfortunately, some states still hold their negative assumptions about gay and lesbian parents for being unfit to raise children. The custody case, Bottoms v Bottoms (1995), in Virginia ruled that a lesbian mother was an unfavorable parent due to many factors, including her sexual orientation. When it comes to being in a legally-binding marriage, there are many benefits for the children, whether that be for a same- or opposite-sex couple. For example, children with two legally married parents can receive health insurance from either parent which guarantees a more stable source of health care. This is one of the many reasons why same-sex couples should be given equal rights as heterosexual couples.

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