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Monday, May 15, 2006

Ind. Law - Fort Wayne News-Sentinel editorializes on same-sex adoptions

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel has a thoughtful editorial today on same-sex adoptions. Some quotes:

No later than next year, Indiana officials will be actively embroiled in the question of gay adoption, what some are calling the second front in the culture war (the first being same-sex marriage, which exploded in the 2004 elections). It would be nice if, in the process, they clarify state law so children are as protected by the process as possible. The law is vague enough – and passions strong enough on both sides – that the main focus will be on which adults have what rights in adoption proceedings. But adoptions are not primarily about the adults – at least they shouldn’t be.

Indiana adoption law specifically permits adoptions by married couples and single adults. It is silent on – neither forbidding nor expressly permitting – adoptions by unmarried couples. Some say that silence is the same as a prohibition – that is the position of Frances Barrow, who has argued the issue for the state; if the legislature had wished to allow adoptions by unmarried couples, it would have said so. But to some, silence is permission. In at least four cases, the Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the validity of adoptions granted to unmarried couples. That is such an obvious trend that a legislature troubled by unmarried adoptions certainly could have acted by now.

Of course, not many people particularly care about unmarried couples in general – if only heterosexual cohabitaters had been involved in adoptions, it is unlikely the issue would be headed for such a contentious 2007 General Assembly session. It is the fact that same-sex unmarried couples have been trying to adopt that has the culture warriors sharpening their rhetorical swords. * * *

In discussing the issue, legislators should talk at least as much about the children in adoptions as they do about the rights of various groups of adults. The same kinds of safeguards the law has always tried to put in for the benefit of adoptees should still be at the top of the list, and the same sorts of questions need to be asked of those who would adopt. Are they financially able to handle the adoption and emotionally equipped? How stable would the home environment be?

Parts of the discussion will certainly get tricky. Marriage has always been one indicator of stability. But gay people can’t get married – and aren’t likely to be able to anytime soon; that battle in the culture war has already been decided in Indiana. If state law doesn’t care about singles (of any sexual persuasion) adopting, what sense does it make to not allow adoption by unmarried couples?

Some might like the issue to be framed in terms of whether gay couples can be as effective as parents as straight couples. In Indiana, though, the question is likely to be whether gay couples should even have the right to adopt.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 15, 2006 10:28 AM
Posted to Indiana Law