LGBT PARENTING RIGHTS
Over the past few months, at least five states have introduced bills or passed laws limiting same-sex adoption across the country. Each with different language, the legislative initiatives allow states and agencies to refuse services to same-sex couples. This discriminatory legal trend not only denies children in the foster care or adoption agencies loving homes if the prospective parents are LGBT, but the laws serve as a building blocks to restrict all rights of LGBT parents. Given the terrifying political and legislative landscape, now more than ever, same-sex parents need to reach for and secure their parenting rights before the legislators erode them completely. LGBT couples can protect their families forever through quick, simple, and inexpensive, second-parent, or step-parent adoption.
The recent legislation is a huge step backwards for LGBT families. In March of 2017, the governor of South Dakota signed a bill allowing child placement agencies to discriminate based on “religious belief or moral conviction,” protecting any agency from government retaliation if they choose to discriminate against LGBT people. Soon after, Alabama and Texas signed similar legislation allowing adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples based on “religious beliefs.” The Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee also added a discriminatory section in their adoption bill targeting LGBT people with an amendment that allows agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples and refuse to work with LGBT prospective parents if doing so meant going against “their mission.” And, in Tennessee, a bill was enacted that requires the words “husband” and “wife,” and “mother” and “father” be interpreted by their “natural and ordinary” meanings indirectly restricting the rights of LGBT parents and their ability to adopt privately or through the foster care system.
Second-parent adoption is the adoption of a child by a second parent who may otherwise not be considered a legal parent. In New York, when the parents are married the process is called a step-parent adoption, versus a second parent adoption when they are not married. Regardless of marital status, for same-sex couples building families, this process is an important legal tool. Without second-parent adoption, the partner of the legal parent, even when married, is not a legally recognized parent and has no parental rights. Once a second-parent adoption is finalized in court, the child has two legal guardians and parents with the same parenting rights recognized across state lines. In the event of a divorce, dissolution of a relationship, or death, both parents’ rights and the child’s rights are unequivocal and an indispensable part of family preservation.
Clearly, LGBT parenting rights are on the legislative chopping block. With second or step-parent adoption, mothers and fathers are protected from being denied custody, visitation, the ability to make medical decisions, and the joys of being a part of their child’s life without states standing in their way. Quick, simple, and inexpensive, second-parent adoption protects LGBT forever families.