Monday, February 1, 2016

Adoption, Utah, and queer parents

Mark Joseph Stern writes in Slate about a bill proposed in Utah to give preference to straight parents in applying to adopt children in state foster care:
[T]he Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision effectively wiped out anti-gay adoption laws. But now Utah Republican Rep. Kraig Powell would like to restore those old rules, by making it official state policy to favor heterosexual adopters over same-sex ones. Powell’s bill would target any same-sex couple that hoped to adopt or foster a child from the state foster care system, which currently holds about 2,700 kids. ... The state could still permit gay couples to foster and adopt, but only those children whom no straight couples wanted. 
(Links to stories in the New York Times and Salt Lake Tribune are in the article.) The bill highlights an issue I haven't seen raised in adoption circles or blogs, which is that adoption is an important family planning option not just for gay parents, but for all queer couples who can't conceive on their own. While adoption is not the only choice, some couples might make arguments that are at least plausible on first glance that adoption is personally or ethically preferable to insemination, surrogacy, etc. And those conflict with the most extreme version of the case made by some writers on adoption, that adoptions should be minimized, made a last resort, or ended as a practice.

I don't have clear answers or arguments at this point. But I'm surprised that it hasn't come up more often in writing and activism around adoption. Most of what I've seen on adoption and queer identity focuses more on queer adoptees than queer adoptive parents. And while I'm wary of focusing so much on overlapping categories ("intersectionality," as they say in the jargon) that one loses sight of the principal concerns, I do think that this is an important and obvious question. My main concern is that the claims of those who argue that adoption is always suspect because it involves more powerful, richer adoptive parents assuming legal guardianhood of the child created by less powerful, poorer biological parents risk calling into question the legitimacy of all kinds of non-traditional family structures, including queer families built on adoption. I'll return to this question on future occasions.

Also notable in this bill: the children in question are only those in state care, so it doesn't apply to international adoptions or any other "private" adoption. There's also the disturbing system of values that the bill sets up, where same-sex couples are simply assumed to be worse parents—but on top of that assumption, the bill then makes foster children out to be a group who are lucky to get whatever guardian they can. It doesn't just insult gay couples, but every child in the foster system, too. 

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