How the NYS Marriage Equality Act May or May Not Affect Adoption

By Michele Fried, Adoption STAR founder and CEO

After negotiations between members of the Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo, regarding protections against discrimination lawsuits for religious groups and non-profit organizations, a same-sex marriage bill known as the Marriage Equality Act passed the State Senate by a vote of 33-29 on June 24, 2011. On the same night, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it allowing it to become a law. My husband and I were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with friends and family. To me, this was the perfect anniversary gift. Today, all people in NYS can marry the person they love.

It has been an interesting and emotional journey for those fighting for equality in NYS and around the country. In NYS for example, gay couples and singles are able to adopt. Couples, whether LGBT or straight can adopt together without being married. I heard from an adoptive father who resides in California with his two sons, both adopted as older children from the foster care system. He writes, “As a gay man my State encouraged me to adopt two young boys no one wanted. Two children that I can raise with my views and my values any way that I see fit. However the same State says I am not allowed to pick a partner to share the same values with. It’s ludicrous. I consider being a parent so much more a victory then being a spouse. If the naysayers only saw that… The same people that protest me from legally being with the adult of my choice allow me to raise the children they couldn’t.”

I used to get angry that in the State of Florida, one could be approved as a foster parent if they were gay but they could not approved to be the their own foster children’s adoptive parent. That has changed but only recently.

The NYS Marriage Equality Act will probably not change adoptions much for gay couples in NYS… at least legally. But, emotionally, what it does mean is that gay couples, though already legally able to adopt together in NYS, can now be legally bonded together, providing a safer, more secure forever family for a child.

Whether gay or straight, when a couple adopts it is still preferable to secure the child’s legal relationship to both parents, by having both adopt the child and by having both of their names on the child’s birth certificate. An article on the New York Times Blog entitled, How Gay Marriage Will Change Financial Lives addresses parenting and many other important financial issues for a gay couple to consider.

In some states, religious based adoption agencies have shut down and at least one religious organization lost its tax-exempt status by failing to consider gay couples as adoptive or foster parents. New York does not allow state-supervised, private adoption and foster care agencies to reject applicants solely on the basis of being gay or lesbian.