By Mubarak Dahir
Twelve-year-old Michael Gulliford-Green just wanted lawmakers in the state of Florida, where he now lives, to know about his family.
That’s why, on the morning of March 9, he got up early, put on a striped green shirt and Docker pants, and flew to the capitol in Tallahassee.
There, he read a letter to legislators about his two dads, Buddy Gulliford and Jim Green.
Michael’s appearance was a passionate plea for the lawmakers to overturn the state law that forbids gay or lesbian people from adopting kids.
Florida is the only state that blatantly bans all gay and lesbian people from adopting. But other states have laws that discriminate against gay adoptions in one way or another.
Mississippi, for example, bans adoptions by gay or lesbian couples. But since it is mute on gay or lesbian singles adopting, that is officially allowed. If you can get an adoption agency and a judge to agree to it.
Utah prohibits all unmarried couples from adopting kids. And since gay and lesbian people can’t marry there, they can’t adopt.
Meanwhile, there are moves in 16 additional states to ban gay and lesbian people from adopting, making adoption one of the hot new fronts on the culture wars.
The right is trying to make the “protection” of children the issue here, under the rubric of “family values.”
Russell Johnson, chairman of the Ohio Restoration Project, equates allowing gays and lesbians to adopt to “experimenting on children.” And the Vatican calls gay adoptions “gravely immoral.” It even goes so far as to say that allowing gay people to adopt means “doing violence to these children.”
Allow Michael Gulliford-Green to politely disagree.
Michael was in the New York foster care system before his new dads, Gulliford and Green, took him in. In fact, Michael actually chose his fathers from their profile in what is called a “life book,” which allows kids to get a glimpse into their prospective new parents. Michael was 8 years old at the time.
Michael knows he is one of the lucky ones. Many kids spend years languishing in the foster care system, being shuttled from foster home to foster home before they land with an adoptive family. Others never get adopted at all.
That’s why Michael was understandably nervous he would be taken away from the family he loves when they moved from New York state to Florida. But even though the state of Florida does not allow gay and lesbian people to adopt in the state, it recognizes out-of-state adoptions. So Michael is safe.
But there are thousands of other kids in the foster care system who are not.
There are an estimated half million kids in foster care in America.
Of course, gay and lesbian people have always had children and been parents. Most, of course, do it the old-fashioned way, by getting married and having kids through straight relationships.
According to an analysis of the 2000 Census, there are roughly 250,000 same-sex couples in America raising children.
There has never been any evidence that children raised by same-sex households fare any worse than children raised in other households. Indeed, at least one study suggests that children in lesbian households may have better early development than children in one-mother, one-father households, because two moms may give a child even more attention than the “standard” family model allows.
And to the long list of studies that show gay and lesbian parents and their children do just as well as anyone else, add a recent study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
Meanwhile, a study by the National Center for Lesbian Rights looked at the situation in Florida, the only state that outright bans any form of gay adoption. The conclusions were dismal. The situation in Florida should act as a warning to other states that are attempting to invoke this senseless ban against gay adoptions.
According to the NCLR study, Florida has more kids in foster care than the national average, and they stay in the foster care system longer than in other states.
Furthermore, according to a report by the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability, “Foster youth typically perform poorly in school, are at higher risk of unemployment, have long-term dependence on public assistance and have increased rates of incarceration.”
Yeah, we wouldn’t want those kids placed with loving gay or lesbian parents, would we?
Of course, social workers and others who work to find kids adoptive parents have long known that gay and lesbian people can be just as good parents as straight people, too, and most of them care about just one thing: finding a good, decent home for a child to live in. Who cares if the parents are gay or straight?
The answer, of course, is only the politicians and the religious right, who would use these kids, and their futures, as a political football to be punted.
Even in Florida, some politicians have finally seen the inanity of the anti-gay adoption law and are trying to ease it, since overturning it would sadly be a political impossibility.
Two proposed bills in the state legislature would allow judges to grant adoptions to gay or lesbian parents if the judge determined doing so to be in the best interest of the child. The proposed measures are designed mostly to give gay and lesbian foster parents (which Florida ironically allows) more clout in their efforts to secure adoption for the kids in their care.
In the coming, inevitable fights across the country over gay adoption, we will undoubtedly hear the rhetoric that allowing gay and lesbian people to adopt would harm kids.
But all that preventing gay and lesbian people from adopting will do is reduce the number of loving parents out there for children adrift who need homes.
In this national fight, we should make sure Americans see the clear example and contrast between the sad state of affairs for foster-care kids in the state of Florida, and the ironically happy difference of people like Michael Gulliford-Green.