May 7, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
Gillibrand to reintroduce adoption anti-discrimination bill
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, Democratic Party, United States Senate, gay news, Washington Blade, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, Martin Gill, adoption, foster care, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Party, Florida, United States House of Representatives

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announces plans to reintroduce the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is leading a group of lawmakers in the House and Senate who are preparing to introduce legislation that would prohibit bias in adoption services against gay couples seeking to adopt.

The legislation, known as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, would restrict federal funds for public child welfare agencies if they have laws or practices allowing for discrimination in adoption on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill would also prohibit discrimination against LGBT children seeking families.

Gillibrand emphasized the importance of the legislation on Tuesday during a news conference on Capitol Hill as a means to ensure LGBT families seeking to adopt can do so without fear of anti-gay bias.

As Gillibrand noted, no state laws protect LGBT families seeking to adopt in more than 30 states, although six states — California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Oregon — explicitly ban discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation.

“This patchwork of state laws often lead our children across the children across the country without the opportunity for a safe home and loving parents,” Gillibrand said. “Meanwhile, there’s an untapped pool of 2 million LGBT people, people who are willing to become adoptive or foster parents, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA.”

According to Gillibrand’s office, an estimated 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system nationwide, and more than 104,000 children are currently waiting to be adopted, including 6,400 in New York.

Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, Democratic Party, United States Senate, gay news, Washington Blade, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, Martin Gill, adoption, foster care, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Party, Florida, United States House of Representatives, John Lewis, Georgia

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) speaks at news conference against anti-gay bias in adoption (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In the House, the lead sponsor of the legislation is Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leader in the 1960′s black civil rights movement, who’s taking over the bill along with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) now that its former patron, former Rep. Pete Stark, has retired from Congress.

“I’ve fought too long and too hard against discrimination of every kind not to serve as a champion for this bill,” Lewis said. “Foster children are innocent bystanders when troubled families crash and burn. The foster care system does it best to rescue these little babies from the flames of abuse — neglect, drug addiction, domestic violence and some of societies worse problems.”

Among the chief LGBT organizations behind the legislation is the Family Equality Council. Emily Hecht-McGowan, the Family Equality Council’s, director of public policy, issued a statement saying the bill is important to find loving homes for children.

“Our country has an obligation to care for its most vulnerable children, and we can do better for the 104,000 youth in foster care who are searching for a home,” Hecht-McGowan said. “The time has come to fix the patchwork of adoption and foster care laws across the country and ensure that young people in care have every opportunity to find a forever home.”

The legislation wasn’t introduced on the same day as the news conference. Steve Majors, a spokesperson for the Family Equality Council, said a “Dear Colleague” letter went out on Tuesday asking lawmakers to sign on in support of the bill in anticipation of introduction at later date.

Speaking with the Washington Blade after the news conference, Gillibrand said the first step in the process to guiding the legislation toward passage this year is building co-sponsorship for the bill — particularly finding a lead GOP co-sponsor in the Senate.

“Right now, we’re working on co-sponsors,” Gillibrand said. “We’ll be working across the aisle to find a lead Republican, and hopefully then garner a broad base of support within the Senate, and then we’ll move forward in the Senate and move forward in the House and try to get this passed this year.”

Asked whether she’s spoken to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who recently came out in favor of marriage equality after learning his son is gay, about the legislation, Gillibrand replied, “We’re still working on it.”

As noted by The Huffington Post, one potential supporter for the legislation in the House could be Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said during a town hall that he supports adoption rights for gay couples, although he continues to oppose same-sex marriage.

“I do believe that if there are children who are orphans who do have a loving person or couple — I think if a person wants to love and raise a child they ought to be able to do that. Period. I would vote that way,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request to comment on whether he’d support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.

During the news conference, a number of gay people and their children spoke out about the importance that adoption has meant for their families. Among them was Martin Gill, a gay foster dad, and his eight-year-old son, Nathaniel, who spoke publicly at the news conference for the first time.

Gill filed a lawsuit against Florida to allow him to adopt Nathaniel and his brother. That challenge led the state in 2010 to stop enforcing its 33-year-old law prohibiting openly gay people from adopting.

“It was not so much the fact that we were going to be discriminated against; it was the fact that they were going to split two young brothers up that had always been together, that had come together into our home, that by the time of our adoption, had been with us for six years at the time of our adoption,” Gill said. “That’s what really led to our journey. That’s something that no foster children should have to go through; it’s also something that no adoptive parent should have to go through.”

Also at the news conference was Mary Keane, a lesbian New York City resident and retired health care consultant, used her savings to buy a 12-bedroom house and intended it to become a safe-haven for LGBT teens rejected by their families. Instead, she became a foster mother for troubled adolescents. Keane has formally adopted six children and plans to adopt four more.

Philip McAdoo, adoption, foster care, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade, LGBT

Philip McAdoo and his seven-year-old son Zaden (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

“Many of my kids, they never, never cared about my sexual orientation,” Keane said. “It was about as irrelevant as you could possibly get. Having parented for 13 years now, what I’ve found is that, if anything, they learn a lot. Some of my kids have written award-winning essays about marriage equality and why gays should be allowed to marry.”

Anni Keane, one of Keane’s daughters who’s now an adult, teared up during the news conference as she talked about the importance of having a mother, saying, “Thank God she decided to be a parent for me. Because she stepped forward, I have a mom, and my daughter has a grandmother.”

Philip McAdoo, a gay Atlanta, Ga., resident and graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, talked about the experience that he and his partner, Sean Cavanaugh, had after the two-year process that led them to adopt their son Zaden, who’s now seven years old.”

“When we started talking about family, he said, ‘Oh, I what’s important in a family,’” McAdoo said. “We were like, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘Where there’s love.’ There was never a question that there were two dads; he always wanted to know who was going to play football with him.”

Jody Huckaby, executive director for PFLAG National, said in a statement his organization in its 40 years of existence has “seen the positive effects parental support” can have on a child — regardless of the sexual orientation of the parent.

“Why, then, should more than 400,000 children remain in foster care—104,000 of whom are eligible for adoption—when they could receive this support from loving, capable, and qualified lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents?” Huckaby said. “This is truly discrimination at its worst: hurtful to the people who are being denied the opportunity to become parents, and harmful to thousands of vulnerable children being denied the opportunity for stable, loving, permanent homes.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

7 Comments
  • Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui

    Democrats once again live up to their past. Just as the Slave Masters of the Colonial South viewed Blacks, Democrats today, with proclaiming an unborn child's life as being a "choice" of the mother, and gay couples with money having a right to own children, the message is clear; Children, like Blacks in the Colonial South, are less than human, having no Natural Rights, capable of being bought and sold like a piece of fine furniture, having no right to be raised by a mother and father, and vulnerable to being murdered by the "owner". The Slave Masters of the Colonial South used their rationale to protect their own selfish desires, just as abortions, and the approbation of gay adoption protect today's Slave Master's own selfish sexual desires.

  • Talk about discrimination at it's WORST? HOW can we talk about ending discrimination in adoption when we STILL discriminated against adoptees? On behalf of the ALL the foster children adopted in this country who ARE punished legally for being adopted. How can we fight for their rights and ignore the bigger issue of Adoptee Rights?
    Over 6,000,000 adopted citizens woke up this morning ready to be treated equally by the United States government. All of them will go to sleep tonight still discriminated against.
    And yet, in over 40 states, grown adults are blocked from accessing their original birth certificates because they were adopted.
    Every one of the current 100,000 foster children waiting homes will be legally discriminated against once they are adopted whether it is by LBGT families, or straight families, foster parents, step parents, grandparents or single parents.
    What I would like to know is WHEN have Adoptee Rights bills tostop discrimination against adopted adults based on the circumstances of their birth? A bill like that would also help the United Stated comply with the yet, unratified, United Nations Declaration of the Rights of a Child specifically articles 7 through 10.
    By eliminating the antiquated sealed birth certificate laws in the US, we can restore the civil and human rights of adopted persons. Every human being deserves the right to know where they came from and the government has no business withholding legal documentation from its citizens based on conjuring, mythology and fears.
    Every child adopted, even though the foster care system and step parent adoption, has their original birth certificate sealed by law. Passing an Adoptee Rights bill would end the fight that adoptees in every state have faced and have been working to resolve at a state level since the mid 1970's.
    It’s time to end the wait for adopted persons in the US. It’s time to end discrimination against adopted people. If they want to help ALL adopted persons, children in foster care, children not yet in foster care, all adopted persons, and their children and grandchildren, then we need, as a nation, to understand and do something to restore the adult adoptees civil rights.

  • Claudia is right…millions of adoptees are treated as perpetual children by archaic adoption laws which prohibit us from accessing our own identities, genealogical and medical histories. Our very birth certificates are "amended" (falsified) upon adoption and our original birth certificates are "sealed". This is the true discrimination in adoption and is a human rights issue. Even the Child Welfare League of America endorses legislation restoring the unconditional right of every adult adoptee access to their original birth certificate. Every American citizen should be ensured access to their own accurate "Certificate of Live Birth", with their true parentage and DNA…for us and our children after us.

  • Christine Monahan

    I am an adoptee. My Original Birth Certificate was permanently sealed by The State of California in 1969 when I was adopted. I was issued a falsified "Amended Birth Certificate" giving me a new names and listing my adoptive parents as my biological parents. This fictional document is what I'm forced to use as proof of my "birth". Well, it's impossible to be born more than once. It's legal fraud that a class of American citizens is forced to live by simply because they were adopted. I want the truthful documentation of my birth and I want it NOW. If gay or straight or bi-sexual or transgender people want to adopt, let them adopt. But no one and I mean no one should be allowed to discriminate against those adopted children by sealing and amending their birth certificates.

  • This is an important issue, but tiny and pathetic compared to seeking full equality and providing REAL leadership for LGBT justice in America. Senator Baldwin is playing it safe for her career and standing, and she has previously refused to support a bill seeking full equality. We all need to remember that just because someone is gay or lesbian in Congress or the Senate – does not make them OUR representative. They were NOT elected by an LGBT process, and have NO MANDATE to dictate our agenda. I'm glad she's in the Senate and wish her well in her career, but I wish all the LGBT members would acknowledge that they are NOT pushing full LGBT equality because of their OWN re-election desires. Let's stop giving credit for this piecemeal approach that looks like initiative, but is far from it, and start holding them accountable for failing to really stand up for full equality. If our own people won't seek full equality – we need other allied leaders in Congress to take up the reins and show real leadership. Senator Baldwin is not that person.

  • What every LGBT family needs is the support from it's local officials, an anti discriminatory school for education, and open and non-biased house of worship, and a non discriminatory social network that they can turn to for moral support.

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