Monday, March 30, 2009

G/L adoption raises an issue still unmined in Florida

MIAMI, FL (Observer Update) - A recent conversation with a friend went something like this:

''Homosexuality isn't normal,'' he said. ``It goes against nature.''

''How do you figure?'' I asked. ``As far as we know, homosexuality always has existed. Wouldn't that indicate that it's perfectly natural?''

''No, it's not,'' he replied. ``Imagine if we were all homosexuals. Then what would happen to the human race?''

It always seems to come back to fear. No matter how unemotionally we try to address homosexuality, we can't seem to stop ourselves from reverting to our most basic instincts, which for many involves an aversion to accepting homosexuality on an even keel with heterosexuality. It's as if, at our most primal core, we are programmed to ensure the survival of the species by procreating, and we fear that homosexuality threatens that survival.

We may become indignant at the thought of someone being violently targeted because of sexual orientation. Some may even believe gay couples should be allowed to marry. But throw children -- our future -- into the mix, and even many progressives stutter. Should gays be allowed to adopt and raise our children? More telling, does it matter to you at all whether your own child grows up to be gay?


Society's feelings about homosexuality are once again at the forefront of a public policy decision. The Legislature is considering two bills by Sen. Nan Rich of Weston to overturn the state's 32-year-old ban on gay adoption. That's on the heels of a recent Miami court ruling striking down the ban. That decision is on appeal.

No matter how much we try to simplify it, it's a complex issue with few universal truths. And that is precisely why Rich is on the right track. One of her bills repeals the gay-adoption ban. The other requires that a primary consideration in adoption cases be the child's best interest, acknowledging that the issue requires thoughtfulness, not a blanket approach.

The question then is whether a parent's homosexuality should be considered at all in adoption cases. Rich's answer is a resounding ''no.'' But what if a judge believes the information may be a factor in what is in the best interest of the child?

If her bills pass, asking about the prospective parent's sexual preference ''would not even be part of the process,'' Rich told me, adding that parents' sexual preference is irrelevant when rearing children.

Problem is, we don't really know if that's true. And a don't-ask, don't-tell approach may not be the best policy. Even pediatricians can't reach consensus. The American Academy of Pediatrics, armed with decades of studies, supports adoption by gays. The American College of Pediatricians, armed with decades of studies, doesn't.


It's true that more than three decades of research have shown that gays are equally as good parents as heterosexuals. Yet it would be irresponsible to ignore that an analysis of 21 of those studies, after minimizing flaws in the research, indicated that children raised by homosexuals do display behavioral differences, including a propensity for sexual activity at an earlier age.

Does that mean gays shouldn't be allowed to adopt? Of course not.

A government should have more than inconclusive fear on its side before denying someone the basic human right to form a family. It does mean, however, that it would be disingenuous to pretend children aren't affected by the actions -- sexual or otherwise -- of their parents.

If and when the ban is repealed, as I hope it will be, it only would be natural to consider that reality.

(This piece was written by Jackie Bueno Sousa, a columnist for the Miami Herald, from which this is reposted).

No comments: