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Same Sex Adoption in the United States: LGBT Couples Finally See Equal Rights

September 15th, 2016

An infant clutching an adult finger.

The final discriminatory law banning same-sex adoption was overturned in April 2016.

People have been adopting children in our country since before we were a country. Adoption then was a very different process from adoption today. In large part, prior to 1851, adoption was less focused on child rearing than it was the burden to adults. In the mid 1800’s however, Massachusetts passed the 1851 Adoption of Children Act, which was the first legislation of its kind in the United States. Considered a turning point in the treatment of orphaned children, the 1851 Act got the ball rolling.

In 1912, Congress created the U.S. Children’s Bureau to investigate issues involving the welfare of children, and by 1948, America saw its first recorded transracial adoption. Single adults have been able to adopt children since the inception of our country’s first adoption laws, but of course married couples were preferred.

The History of LGBT Adoption

Homosexual individuals have also been a part of the adoption process since the beginning, but they could not adopt as couples or even represent themselves as LGBT until recently. Because single people could adopt, members of the LGBT community could in theory adopt as single people. Early on, the issue of married LGBT couples being able to adopt was moot because it was not until the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that same sex marriage became a right nationwide.

In 1976, the American Psychological Association declared that the sexual identity of parents should not be the sole factor in determining whether custody of children is appropriate and in 1992, a judge allowed a lesbian woman to adopt her partner’s child. Despite the forward progress, the LGBT community has also seen setbacks and in 1995, Florida’s supreme court upheld the constitutionality of its ban on gay adoption.

Every State Now Allows Same Sex Adoption

Despite the frustrating setbacks that we have seen throughout the years, in April 2016, a federal judge struck down the last remaining law banning same-sex adoption. The Mississippi law had been in place since 2000 but the judge declared that the law violated the United States Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Despite the seeming victory for equality, the ruling came during the same week that Mississippi Senate approved House Bill 1523 which would have allowed businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples based on the business owners’ religious beliefs. Fortunately, this bill was struck down but it serves as an example that, not only are we fighting decades old discriminatory laws, but new ones as well.

Universal Life Church Will Continue to Monitor Old Laws and New

Laws and restrictions affecting the rights of the LGBT community have been ever changing. In recent years, we have fortunately seen moves in the right direction, but at the same time, we see new issues pop up with unsettling frequency. A review of our blog is a testament our nation’s roller coaster ride of equality. Universal Life Church remains dedicated to keeping you informed of these changes and we will continue to provide you with clear and concise updates through our legal blog.


(photo courtesy of Jeff Trestle)

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