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Joint Gay/Lesbian Adoption - All Hail New Jersey!

On December 17, 1997, the State of New Jersey took a step forward towards equal treatment of gay and lesbian couples and adoption rights.

As you're aware, adoption is a big issue for many gay and lesbian couples. In Florida and New Hampshire, gays and lesbians remain barred by law from adopting. At all. Period.

The adoption issue has recently been the subject of a poll by the Christian Science Monitor (have you voted yet?) in light of a situation in Texas where an overzealous case worker ordered a child removed from a lesbian home, later being overruled by her superiors in the state's Child Protective Services Agency.

There have been co-adoptions allowed in approximately 20 states, but that "right" isn't codified and even within a state that has allowed the co-adoption, rulings can vary from county to county, even from judge to judge. For example, in California the "rules" say that such an adoption cannot be approved. So the case workers write up a report extolling the virtues of the home and co-parent, then "regretfully" decline to approve; the tendency for many of the Judges is to ignore the recommendation and base their decision on the actual evaluations, but Governor Wilson is pressuring the Courts to abide by the legislated recommendations and deny co-adoption petitions.

Notice that all of the above require one of the partners to be the legal parent (by birth or adoption) of the child with the second parent moving to adopt as a co or step parent. In situations where the child was originally adopted, this requires couples to expend double the time, energy, money and intrusion into their lives in order to both claim legal status of parent of the child.

Now, in New Jersey, this two-step process is no longer necessary. Gay and lesbian couples may petition for adoption as a couple, going through the process only once, and being judged exclusively on the merits of their petition.

So far the news coverage has all been positive, with phrases such as "equal treatment," "one standard," and "equal footing" highlighting the stories.

No doubt others will be chiming in with less positive reaction.

Regardless, it's a great step forward for parental rights - and we'll continue to update our news page with additional angles on the story.



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Drop a note to Deborah at gaylesissues@rslevinson.com

copyright 1986-2010 Deborah Levinson