Gay and Lesbian Parenting Essay

This essay has a total of 1716 words and 7 pages.

Gay and Lesbian Parenting

In the last decade there has been a rise n the number of lesbians and gay men forming
their own families. Many do this through adoption, foster care, artificial insemination,
and other means. Today, researchers have estimated that the number of children living with
one gay or lesbian parent is six to fourteen million. Some have described this current
period as a lesbian and gay "baby boom". However, lesbian and gay parents face many social
and legal obstacles (Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1997).

In the past, most gay and lesbian parents lived secretive and protective lives. Not only
did gay parents have to face his or her coming out issues and separation from spouse, but
also face coming out to their children. Because more and more lesbian and gay families
choose to have children, they are also more out about whom they are. "This means that they
are showing up in fertility clinics for information about attempting pregnancy, they are
coming to adoption agencies stating clearly the nature of their family, they are going to
attorneys for information on second parent same-sex adoption, and they are going to PTA
meetings and little league games with the same enthusiasm as other parents" (Lev, 2002
p.2).

Many of the children parented by lesbians and gay men were born to them when they were in
a heterosexual relationship or marriage. Often, when the child's non-gay parent discovers
the sexual identity of the other parent, he or she may attempt to limit their parenting
roles. Other challenges have been brought upon by other relatives or government agencies,
thus causing prejudice towards gay and lesbian parents and denying custody and visitation
rights (Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, 1997-2002).

The child custody and visitation legal standards vary from state to state. For example,
twenty-one states have granted second-parent adoptions to lesbian and gay couples. This
enables the child to have the equal opportunity of having two legal parents, especially if
one dies. Today, the majority of states no long deny custody or visitation based on sexual
orientation. Now, courts apply the notion "best interest of the child", when it comes to
deciding cases based upon this. Thus, one's sexual orientation cannot be the basis for
denying or limiting parent-child relationships, in most states (The American Civil
Liberties Union, 1999).

Although things seem to be coming along more and more, one's sexual orientation may have
drawbacks. A few states, which rely on the myths and stereotypes, have uses one's sexual
orientation to deny custody, adoption, visitation and foster care. For example, Florida
and New Hampshire have laws that forbid lesbians and gay men from adopting children. Some
instances have shown how one's sexual orientation is used to their disadvantage, such as
in Sharon Bottom's case. "In a notorious 1993 decision, a court in Virginia took away
Sharon Bottom's two-year old son simply because of her sexual orientation, and transferred
custody to the boy's maternal grandmother. And Arkansas has just adopted a policy
prohibiting lesbians, gay men, and those who live with them, from serving as foster
parents" (American Civil Liberties Union, 1999, p.1).

Issues of parenting are not the only difficulties that gay and lesbian parents face.
Others include the right to a legal marriage, which enables them to have the same rights
and laws as opposite-sex couples. The Netherlands became the first to issue legal marriage
to same-sex couples on April 1, 2001. These marriage licenses are only offered to its
legal citizens and residents. No other state or country in the world allows same-sex
marriages. Although many churches marry same-sex couples, ceremonial marriages provide no
civil laws and carry no legal benefits or responsibilities. Same-sex couples are
considered to be legal strangers, thus, Federal laws regarding marriage does not cover
them. It still remains uncertain when same-sex couples will be able to get a legal
marriage license. Suits for legal marriages began in the United States in 1971 (Partners
Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples, 2002).

Although same-sex couples remain in the fight for their rights to be legally married, one
of the best rulings came from the Vermont State Supreme Court on December 20, 1999. Their
final ruling stated that, "Same-sex couples must be afforded the same rights and benefits
as opposite-sex couples, but require the Vermont Legislature to provide legal marriage or
a ‘domestic partnership' law, rather than immediately require marriage licenses for
same-sex couples" (Partners Task for Gay and Lesbian Couples, 2002, p.5). This new license
allows same-sex couples to be recognized as ‘next-of-kin', rather than ‘legal
strangers'. However, although this is a start, it is unlikely that any other state will
honor this new marital license (Partners Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples, 2002).
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