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The transforming legal landscape for gay and lesbian adoption

The Human Rights Campaign has designated June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender and Queer Pride Month. The recent increase of gay and lesbian biological parents has, in part, led to more open consideration of gay and lesbian men and women as adoptive parents. The laws in most states - like North Dakota- do not explicitly prohibit gay and lesbian adoption, however, some courts have expressed concerns about the welfare of children raised in lesbian or gay households.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are six to 14 million children in the United States living with at least one gay parent. While over 20 states have granted second-parent adoptions to gay and lesbian couples, a few states have laws expressly banning gays and lesbians from adopting children.

The law is often shaped by prevailing social norms. Although there seems to be a shift in the social consciousness toward acceptance of gays and lesbians and the acknowledgement of their legal rights, for opponents, there are still persisting concerns about gay and lesbian adoption. The three main concerns are: whether children will be more likely to identify as gay or lesbian, whether children will be molested by homosexual parents and whether children will be teased or harassed.

First, studies show that children raised in homosexual households are no more likely to become gay or lesbian than children raised in heterosexual households. Second, a child sex abuse case study reveals that a child's risk of being molested by a relative identifying as heterosexual is over 100 times greater than their risk of being molested by a relative identifying as homosexual. Finally, although children from gay or lesbian households may indeed experience teasing and harassment, studies show that their self-esteem levels are not lower than children with heterosexual parents.

Gay and lesbian couples seeking to adopt may benefit from the assistance of legal counsel, who can provide guidance through the legal process. Adoption requirements are strict and complex for everyone and the law is in a constant state of flux. Regardless of sexual orientation, it is important to understand all the factors and legal requirements before making the decision to adopt.

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
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