Task Force Applauds Gay And Lesbian Adoption Settlement
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force praised yesterday's New Jersey class-action victory granting same-gender couples equal status with heterosexual couples in adopting children in state custody.
Noting the intense debate of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) family issues across the country in the past few years, Task Force executive director Kerry Lobel praised the decision as a major breakthrough. Based on the upcoming Hawaii marriage decision, the recent improper removal of a foster child from a lesbian couple's home in Texas, and the significant increase in bills pertaining to GLBT family issues in state legislatures in recent years, the Task Force anticipates that 1998 will be marked by even more social and public policy debate on the issue of GLBT family rights.
"The American public, the courts, and public policy makers are understanding more and more that not only do our families exist, but that they are loving, healthy, nurturing environments, and that we make excellent parents," stated Lobel. "But we know from hard experience that with every gain there is a backlash. 1998 is likely to be a very hot year," added Lobel.
According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as many as 75 GLBT family-related measures were introduced in nearly 40 state legislatures in 1997, a slight increase from the previous year. While the vast majority of these bills were related to marriage, an increasing number were related to domestic partnership issues and adoption and foster care.
In Texas, one of these bills became law. It stipulates that only a man and a woman can be listed as parents on a birth certificate. NGLTF will monitor state legislative activity throughout 1998 and expects even more such measures to hit.
Also in Texas recently, a state adoption worker improperly removed a foster child from the home of a lesbian couple simply because they were lesbians. The child has since been put back into the care of the women. It's also worth noting that in the Hawaii same-gender marriage case, the state's major argument was that gays and lesbians do not make suitable parents. The court's rejection of this argument is indicative of the ongoing shift in public opinion on this issue. A ruling in this case is expected soon, and it's predicted it will be in favor of same-gender marriage.
In a soon to be published NGLTF report on the economic status of gay and lesbian people in the U.S., Professor Lee Badget of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, documents that nearly as many lesbians and gay men have children living at home as do heterosexual men and women. In one survey, 31 percent of lesbians and 23 percent of gay men had children under 18 living at home, compared to 37 percent of heterosexual women and 33 percent of heterosexual men. In another study 67 percent of lesbians were parents compared to 72 percent of heterosexual women. The gap was wider between gay and straight men in this same study, showing that 27 percent of gay men and 60 percent of straight men were parents. Nevertheless, both studies illustrate that many gay men and lesbians are parents.
Lobel took exception to the response to this decision by many conservative groups, who characterized the settlement as a "victory for the homosexual agenda." "This is not a victory for the homosexual agenda. It's a victory for children and a victory for families," stated Lobel.
Activists in New Jersey also lauded the decision. "This historic settlement challenges the foundation of the far right anti-gay propaganda that gay people are not fit to be the caretakers of children," stated Wendy Berger, political director of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition. Berger can be reached at (908) 828-6772.
NGLTF publications relating to family issues include Here to Stay: A Working Paper on Lesbian and Gay Family Issues, and Capital Gains and Losses: A State by State Review of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV/AIDS Related Legislation (1997, 1996, and 1995). To obtain any of these publications, contact NGLTF.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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