November is National Adoption Awareness Month, which offers the opportunity to build awareness for the children and teens seeking a home, and to support individuals hoping to adopt. In particular, adoption is an oft-selected channel gay couples turn to in order to start families. The number of gay and lesbian couples adopting children is on the rise in the United States, and with the recent passage of marriage equality in Hawaii and Illinois, the number will continue to grow.
Yet the adoption process remains a patchwork of complexly woven restrictions for LGBT couples in the United States. According to the Family Equality Council, a majority of states still impose restrictions against LGBT couples hoping to adopt. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to jointly adopt, while more shockingly, six states maintain an explicit ban on LGBT adoptive and foster parents.
In good news, not all countries are behind the pack in terms of adoption rights. The United States can take a page of out these countries’ books when it comes to LGBT adoption:
Notwithstanding recent efforts in Russia to “prevent” adoption of a Russian child from gay couples in Sweden, the Scandinavian country has had progressive LGBT adoption rights for years. For starters, Sweden legalized adoption for gay couples in 2002, making it one of the first European states to give the LGBT community that right. Couples also face no restrictions when adopting — children be adopted from within Sweden and abroad.
The late Pope John Paul II harshly criticized Spain’s elected officials when Parliament voted to allow same-sex marriage and adoption in the predominantly Catholic nation. Despite ongoing criticism, gay couples in Spain have been able to adopt since 2005, and benefit from tax advantages and family leave rights heterosexual adoptive parents had for years beforehand. While anti-LGBT groups have recently attempted to appeal these rights, the highest courts of Spain readily upheld the nation’s equality laws and dismissed such appeals.
Like Sweden, Belgium was an “early-adopter” when it came to LGBT rights. In 2003, it became the second nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples followed in 2006. While figures for adoption by LGBT couples remained low in the years following legalization, a 2012 report revealed that half of all adoptions in Belgium were by gay and lesbian couples.
In Argentina, the right for gay couples to marry and adopt children came after an intense debate and narrow 33-27 vote in Congress in July of 2010. Pope Francis, then known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, championed against such rights in his native country before it was voted on in Congress. Today, the Pope remains in ardent disapproval of LGBT rights, but Argentinians can take pride in both obtaining these rights, and having been the first Latin American country to do so.
Considering the anti-LGBT fervor that persists today, you may be surprised to learn that the vote to legalize gay marriage in Iceland was met with little opposition when it passed with a unanimous vote in 2010. What’s more, LGBT couples in the Nordic nation have been able to adopt and co-parent since 2006. It’s no wonder the legal status of LGBT people in Iceland is considered one of the best in the world.
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