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Same-sex adoption

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Same-sex adoption

LGBT adoption is the adoption of children by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. This may be in the form of a joint adoption by a same-sex couple, adoption by one partner of a same-sex couple of the other's biological child (step-parent adoption) and adoption by a single LGBT person.

Adoption by same-sex couples is legal in 14 countries and in some territories. Opponents of LGBT adoption question whether same-sex couples have the ability to be adequate parents (see LGBT parenting). Since constitutions and statutes usually fail to address the adoption rights of LGBT persons, judicial decisions often determine whether they can serve as parents either individually or as couples.

LGBT parenting

Main article: LGBT parenting

The existing body of research on outcomes for children with LGBT parents includes limited studies that consider the specific case of adoption. Moreover, where studies do mention adoption they often fail to distinguish between outcomes for unrelated children versus those in their original family or step-families, causing research on the more general case of LGBT parenting to be used to counter the claims of LGBT-adoption opponents.[1] One study has addressed the question directly, evaluating the outcomes of adoptees less than 3-years old who had been placed in one of 56 lesbian and gay households since infancy. Despite the small sample and the fact that the children have yet to become aware of their adoption status or the dynamics of gender development, the study found no significant associations between parental sexual orientation and child adjustment, making the results consistent with notions that two parents of the same gender can be capable parents and that parental sexual orientation is not related to parenting skill or child adjustment. The findings point to the positive capabilities of lesbian and gay couples as adoptive parents.[2]

Objections to and support for LGBT adoption

Adoption of children by LGBT people is an issue of active debate. In the United States, for example, legislation to stop the practice has been introduced in many jurisdictions; such efforts have largely been defeated, with the exception of Arkansas Act 1. There is agreement between the debating parties, however, that the welfare of children alone should dictate policy.[1] Supporters of LGBT adoption suggest that many children are in need of homes and claim that since parenting ability is unrelated to sexual orientation, the law should allow them to adopt children.[1] Opponents, on the other hand, suggest that the alleged greater prevalence of depression, drug use, promiscuity and suicide among homosexuals (and alleged greater prevalence of domestic violence) might affect children [3] or that the absence of male and female role models during a child's development could cause maladjustment.[4] Catholic Answers, a Catholic religious group, in its 2004 report on gay marriage addressed parenting by homosexual partners via adoption or artificial insemination. It pointed to studies finding higher than average abuse rates among heterosexual stepparent families compared with families headed by biological parents.[5][6] The American Psychological Association, however, notes that an ongoing longitudinal study found that none of the lesbian mothers had abused their children. It states that fears of a heightened risk of sexual abuse by gay parents are not supported by research.[7]

Several professional organizations have made statements in defense of adoption by same-sex couples. The American Psychological Association has supported adoption by same-sex couples, citing social prejudice as harming the psychological health of lesbians and gays while noting there is no evidence that their parenting causes harm.[8][9][10] The American Medical Association has issued a similar position supporting same-sex adoption, stating that lack of formal recognition can cause health-care disparities for children of same-sex parents.[11]

Britain's last Catholic adoption society announced that it would stop finding homes for children if forced by legislation to place children with same-sex couples.[12] The Muslim Council of Britain also sided with Catholic adoption agencies on this issue. [13] Catholic Charities of Boston also ended its founding mission of adoption work rather than comply with state laws conflicting with its religious practices.[14]

Public opinion

A 2006 poll by the Pew Research Center found a close divide on gay adoption among the United States public, while a 2007 poll by CNN and Opinion Research Corp. said 57% of respondents felt gays should have the right to adopt and 40% said they should not.[15] In the United Kingdom in 2007, 64% of people said they thought gay couples should be allowed to adopt and 32% said they should not. 55% of respondents thought that male couples should be able to adopt and 59% of people thought that lesbian couples should be able to adopt.[16] In Brazil, a 2010 poll asked, "Do you support or oppose allowing gay couples to adopt children?" The poll found that 51% opposed adoption by same-sex couples and 39% supported it.[17] An opinion poll conducted in late 2006 at the request of the European Commission indicated that Polish public opinion was generally opposed to both same-sex marriage and to adoption by gay couples. The Eurobarometer 66[18] poll found that 74% of Poles were opposed to same-sex marriage and 89% opposed adoption by same-sex couples.

Legal status by country/jurisdiction

Full joint adoption by same-sex couples is currently legal in the following countries:

Full joint adoption by same-sex couples is currently legal in the following subnational jurisdictions:

The following countries permit stepchild-adoption in which the partner in a registered partnership (or in an unregistered cohabitation in Israel and Slovenia) can adopt the natural, and in some cases the adopted, child of his or her partner:

The following jurisdictions permit "stepchild-adoption" in which one partner in a civil union can adopt the natural (or sometimes even adopted) child of his or her partner:


South Africa

South Africa is the only African country to allow joint adoption by same-sex couples. The 2002 decision of the Constitutional Court in the case of Du Toit v Minister of Welfare and Population Development amended the Child Care Act, 1983 to allow both joint adoption and stepparent adoption by "permanent same-sex life partners".[56] The Child Care Act has since been replaced by the Children's Act, 2005, which allows joint adoption by "partners in a permanent domestic life-partnership", whether same- or opposite-sex, and stepparent adoption by a person who is the "permanent domestic life-partner" of the child's current parent.[57] Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2006, and is equivalent to opposite-sex marriage for all purposes, including adoption.



A January 2005 ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court allowed stepchild adoptions for same-sex couples. Israel previously allowed limited co-guardianship rights for non-biological parents.[58] Then in February 2008, a court in Israel ruled that same-sex couples are now permitted to adopt a child even if that child is not biologically related to either parent.[59] This marked a watershed in granting equal rights to all gay people in Israel.[59] isRealli, the official blog of the State of Israel, frequently publishes updates on gay adoption news in Israel. The site also has a complete timeline of gay rights milestones in Israel.


In February 2006, France's Court of Cassation ruled that both partners in a same-sex relationship can have parental rights over one partner's biological child. The result came from a case where a woman tried to give parental rights of her two daughters to her partner whom she was in a civil union with.[60] In the case of adoption, however, in February 2007, the same court ruled against a lesbian couple where one partner tried to adopt the child of the other partner. The court stated that the woman's partner cannot be recognized unless the mother withdrew her own parental rights.[61][62] On May 17, 2013, French President François Hollande signed into law the bill that opened marriage and adoption rights linked to it for same sex couples.[63]

In 1998, a nursery school teacher from Lons-le-Saunier, living as a couple with another woman, had applied for an authorization to adopt a child from the département (local government) of Jura. The adoption board recommended against the authorization because the child would lack a paternal reference, and thus the president of the département ruled against the authorization.[64] The case was appealed before the administrative courts and ended before the Council of State, acting as supreme administrative court, which ruled against the woman.[65] The European Court of Human Rights concluded that these actions and this ruling were a violation of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights taken in conjunction with Article 8.[64][66]

On 2 June 2006, the Icelandic Parliament unanimously passed a proposal accepting adoption, parenting and assisted insemination treatment for same-sex couples on the same basis as heterosexual couples. The law went into effect on 27 June 2006.

In Bulgaria, according to the Ministry of Justice the laws regarding adoption "lack a norm, concerning the sexual orientation of the individuals". Therefore, a single gay person or same-sex couples may adopt.[67][68]

On 17 May 2013, the Portuguese parliament approved a bill in first reading allowing "co-adoption" of the biological or adopted child of the same-sex spouse or partner, where that spouse or partner is the only legally recognized parent of the child (e.g. the mother with the natural father not being registered).[69]

North America


In Canada, adoption by same-sex couples is legal in every province and territory.[22][23][24][25][26]


In Mexico City, the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District passed legislation on 21 December 2009 enabling same-sex couples to adopt children.[70] Eight days later, Head of Government ("Mayor") Marcelo Ebrard signed the bill into law, which officially took effect on 4 March 2010.[43][71]

On 24 November 2011, the Coahuila supreme court struck down the state's law barring same-sex couples from adopting, urging the state's legislature to amend the adoption law as soon as possible.[44]

United States

Main article: LGBT adoption in the United States

According to a report by the Williams Institute, in 2007 there were 270,000 children in the United States who lived with same-sex couples. Of these, one-quarter, or 65,000, were adopted.[72]

In the U.S., states may restrict adoption by sexual orientation or marital status. Furthermore, since adoptions are mostly handled by local courts in the United States, some judges and clerks accept or deny petitions to adopt on criteria that vary from other judges and clerks in the same state,[73] leading to a confused or ambiguous legal status for same-sex parents in some states.



In Australia, same-sex adoption is legal in the Australian Capital Territory,[74] Western Australia,[75] New South Wales[42] and Tasmania.[76] The lesbian co-mother or gay co-father(s) can apply to the Family Court of Australia for a parenting order, as 'other people significant to the care, welfare and development' of the child. But the lesbian co-mother and gay co-father(s) will be treated in the same way as a social parent is treated under the law; they will not be treated in the same way as a birth parent.[77] In May 2007, the Victorian Law Reform Commission in Victoria released its final report recommending that the laws be modified to allow same sex couples to adopt children have not been implemented yet, while all other recommendations have been implemented.[78]

New Zealand

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013, which will come into force on 19 August 2013, will allow same-sex marriage and permit married same-sex couples to jointly adopt children. Previously, an LGBT individual was able to adopt children, but same-sex couples could not adopt jointly.[79]

In New Zealand, preliminary New Zealand Law Commission reports and white papers had previously raised the issue, while Metiria Turei, a Green Party List MP raised the issue in late May 2006. In February 2005, the Greens suggested that an adoption law reform clause should be added to the Relationships (Statutory References) Act 2005, which equalized heterosexual, lesbian and gay spousal status in New Zealand law and regulatory policy except for adoption. However, this was ultimately rendered irrelevant by the advent of same-sex marriage in New Zealand on April 17, 2013. As a consequence of this legislation, married same-sex couples will also be able to become adoptive parents. An additional Adoption Reform Bill seeks to extend such rights to civil unions in New Zealand and de facto couples.

South America

In Argentina, Brazil, French Guiana, and Uruguay same-sex couples can jointly adopt. A government-sponspored adoption law in Uruguay allowing LGBT adoption was approved by the lower house on 28 August 2009, and by the Senate on 9 September 2009. In October 2009, the law was signed by President and took effect.[40] According to Equipos Mori Poll's, 53% of Uruguayans are opposed to same sex adoption against 39% that support it. Interconsult's Poll made in 2008 says that 49% are opposed to same sex adoption against 35% that support it.[39][80]

In Paraguay, single persons can adopt, but couples are given preference and the latter must be heterosexual. However, if the adoptive parent will adopt as a single parent, sexual orientation per se constitutes no legal impediment.[81]

Summary of laws by jurisdiction

European laws on adoption by same-sex couples
Country LGBT individual may petition to adopt Same-sex couple may jointly petition Same-sex partner may petition to adopt partner's child Same-sex couples are allowed to foster or stepchild foster
Austria Yes No Yes No
Belgium Yes Yes Yes Yes
Czechia Yes No No No
Denmark Yes Yes Yes Yes
Estonia Yes No No Yes
Finland Yes No Yes Yes
France Yes Yes Yes Yes
Germany Yes No (but the child adopted by one partner can later be adopted by the other as well) Yes Yes
Iceland Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ireland Yes No No Yes
Italy No No No No (but singles can exceptionally foster)
Latvia Yes No No No?
Lithuania No (only in exceptional circumstances) No No No
Netherlands Yes Yes Yes Yes
Norway Yes Yes Yes Yes
Poland Yes No No No
Portugal Yes No No Yes
Slovakia Yes No No No
Slovenia Yes No Yes No (but singles can foster)
Spain Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sweden Yes Yes Yes Yes
Switzerland Yes No No Yes
United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes Yes
Latin American and Caribbean laws on adoption by same-sex couples
Same-sex couple joint petition LGBT individual adoption Same-sex stepparent adoption
Argentina Yes Yes Yes
Brazil Yes Yes Yes
Chile No No No
Colombia No Yes No
Paraguay No No No
Surinam No No No
French Guiana Yes Yes Yes
Guyana No (Gay sex illegal) No (Gay sex illegal) No (Gay sex illegal)
Belize No (Gay sex illegal) No (Gay sex illegal) No (Gay sex illegal)
Peru No No No
Cuba No No No
Puerto Rico No Yes No
Bolivia No No No
Ecuador No (constitutional ban) No (constitutional ban) No (constitutional ban)
Honduras No (constitutional ban) No (constitutional ban) No (constitutional ban)
El Salvador No No No
Guatemala No No No
Venezuela No No No
Dominican Republic No No No
Nicaragua No No No
Costa Rica No Yes No
Mexico Yes (only Mexico City and Coahuila) Yes Yes (only Mexico City and Coahuila)
Uruguay Yes Yes Yes
Australasian laws on adoption by same-sex couples
Same-sex couple joint petition LGBT individual adoption Same-sex stepparent adoption
ACT Yes Yes Yes
New South Wales Yes[42] Yes Yes[42]
Northern Territory No Only in exceptional circumstances No
Queensland No (under review since 2009) Yes No
South Australia No (under review since 2008) No No
Tasmania Yes[76] Yes Yes[76]
Victoria No (under review since 2007) Yes Yes
Western Australia Yes Yes Yes
New Zealand Yes Yes Yes


  • Even a de facto opposite sex couple can not jointly adopt a child under the law of the Northern Territory.
  • No individual or single people are allowed to adopt a child, only a married or de facto opposite sex couples under the law of South Australia.

See also

Further reading

  • Primary resource collection and readings. Library of Congress. Jefferson or Adams Bldg General or Area Studies Reading Rms
  • Primary resource collection and readings. Library of Congress. Jefferson or Adams Bldg General or Area Studies Reading Rms
  • Stacey, J. & Davenport, E. (2002) Queer Families Quack Back, in: D. Richardson & S. Seidman (Eds) Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies. (London, SAGE Publications), 355–374.
  • New Zealand Law Commission: Adoption- Options for Reform: Wellington: New Zealand Law Commission Preliminary Paper No 38: 1999: ISBN 1-877187-44-5


External links

  • New Family Social The organisation for LGBT adopters and foster carers in the UK.
  • AICAN – Australian Intercountry Adoption Network
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights – Information about the legal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, including a legal information hotline
  • – Adoption and Parenting – News and Current Events pertaining to the rights and responsibilities of same-sex parents in adopting and parenting
  • Family Pride Coalition – The only US-based national level non-profit organization solely dedicated to advocating for LGBT parents and their families
  • Families Like Ours – Adoption resource center with a focus on same-sex parenting
  • Alliant International University
  • )
  • "In the Family Way" – News story of gay and lesbian adoptive families, and the surrogate and donor family
  • Families Like Mine
  • Greenwood and Fink – all legal services for same sex adopting couples and more. – Providing a path to gay and lesbian adoption: all legal services, access to obstetric and pediatric medical services, accommodations, social services, concierge services and other resources.
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