Arkansas residents recently voted to ban people who are "cohabitating outside of a valid marriage," as Shelley and Ross do, from being foster parents or adopting children as these women did.This vote to keep same-sex couples from becoming parents is hateful, and it hurts children as much as it does the couples whose basic rights it revokes. Susan Hoffpauir, the president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, lamented in the pages of the Chicago Tribune, "We don't have enough quality homes as it is, and now we're going to place more restrictions?"
The measure was written to prohibit straight and gay people who are living together from adopting or becoming foster parents, but its real objective, child welfare experts say, is to bar same-sex couples like Shelley and Ross, 52, from raising children—even if it means youngsters who desperately need families will wait longer.
Across the country, similar laws aimed at keeping lesbian and gays from becoming parents are threatening the wellbeing of children in need of loving homes and robbing same-sex couples of an equal status in the United States. Utah only permits straight married couples to adopt, while North Dakota allows child placement agencies to "rule out prospective adoptive parents based on religious or moral objection."
One state, however, is working to reverse its bigoted and harmful laws: a Florida judge ruled last week against a law that had previously baned adoptions by lesbians or gays.
For those still unconvinced, the Tribune article also frames the issue in economic terms:
Some 129,000 U.S. children are in foster care, and the only criteria should be who can best provide a loving, permanent home, according to Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.In answer to this economic incentive for justice, compassion, and equality, one social conservative group that lobbied for the ban on same-sex adoptions argued that better advertising for straight couples willing to become foster or adoptive parents will solve the issue.
In a recent report, the non-partisan group concluded that a national ban on gay adoptions could add $87 million to $130 million to foster care expenditures annually because these children would then be living in other types of institutional care, such as group homes.
"On its face, this [Arkansas] law is just crazy," Pertman said. "I fear what will happen if other states see this as a model."
We still have so far to go.