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Second Parent Adoptions
The most common way in which same-sex couples adopt is that one partner already has legal custody of a child (either by birth or adoption) as a single parent. Then the second partner, at some later date after the adoption has been finalized, petitions the court to allow the second partner to do a second parent adoption of the other partner’s child using the streamlined stepparent adoption process.
Stepparent adoptions are the most common and least regulated types of relative adoptions in the United States. They most commonly involve stepparents (usually stepfathers) married to one of the child’s biological parents. Most states streamline the process of stepparent adoptions by eliminating, or giving the court the discretion to waive, many required procedural steps for other adoptions, including homestudies, statutory waiting periods before finalizing the adoption, and formal accounting of adoption expenses.
Second parent adoption allows a homosexual couple to adopt a child so that both partners have equal parental rights. For instance, the non-biological mother can adopt the child born to her lesbian partner without terminating the parental rights of the biological mother.
Information from Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International
According to Tim Fisher, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International (GLPCI), the following 21 states and DC have court precedents that allow for Second Parent Adoptions for same-sex couples.
Alaska, CALIFORNIA, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington
In these states at least one court allowed second parent adoptions, but that doesn’t mean that a higher court would not overturn the decision. These decisions apply to intercountry adoption as well as adoption of the biological child of one’s partner.
In four states, the highest court decided in favor of second parent adoptions, which makes them binding law. These states are Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.
Colorado is a bit confusing, because one court decision prohibited this type of adoption, while others at the same level have allowed it.
Wisconsin had lower court decision that allowed same-sex couples to adopt, but their highest court overruled these decisions. Thus, the law prohibiting second-parent adoption for same-sex couples is binding.
Internationally, adoption by homosexual couples is allowed in Ontario, Canada and London and Manchester, England and laws have recently been enacted in the Netherlands to allow adoption by homosexual couples.
Joint Non-Relative Adoption by Same-Sex Couples
Most states currently allow an individual gay or lesbian adult to adopt a minor child subject, as is any adoption, to a finding by a judge, that adoption by that individual is in the child’s best interest. No states currently sanction in statute adoption by lesbian or homosexual couples.
The main problem for unmarried same-sex couples is the prohibition in all states except Hawaii against their legal marriage. All fifty states allow unmarried individuals to adopt. Most states require couples to be legally married in order to adopt a child. The fact that same-sex couples are barred from legal marriage in 49 of 50 states acts as a barrier to joint adoption (at the same time) of a child unrelated to either party. In cases where unmarried couples (heterosexual or homosexual) have petitioned to adopt a child, courts have begun, at the appellate level, to rule that marital status and sexual orientation do not take precedence to the individual child’s best interests. A recent court decision in New Jersey overturned a lower court ruling barring joint adoption by a gay couple and allowed the couple to adopt their foster son jointly. Two states (Florida and New Hampshire) expressly forbid adoption by homosexuals in their adoption statutes. The State of Connecticut’s statutes specify that the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents may be considered but no specific orientation will be required as a condition for the placement of a child.
Vermont has allowed two lesbians who had received a favorable evaluation by a child-placing agency to adopt an unrelated child sequentially. In that case, one woman adopted as a single parent and about a year later the second partner petitioned the court successfully to adopt the child. Thus the first partner did an individual stranger adoption and the second partner did a second parent adoption.