Miércoles 13 de Febrero de 2002, Ip nº 11

Group wants gays to have right to adopt a partner's child
Por Erica Goode

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which offers guidance to parents on child-rearing issues from spanking to nutrition, is announcing its support today for the right of gay men and lesbians to adopt their partners' children.

''Children who are born to or adopted by one member of a same-sex couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents,'' the academy says in a policy statement published in its scientific journal, Pediatrics.

The organization issued its statement after a committee reviewed two decades of studies. Most, it said, found that the children of gay or lesbian parents were as well adjusted socially and psychologically as the children of heterosexual parents.

The issue of so-called second-parent adoptions has been fiercely contested in many states. Three states effectively ban such adoptions, seven states and Washington, D.C., permit them by law or court ruling, and otherwise the legal status of such adoptions varies widely.

But many experts said the academy's endorsement was likely to carry weight in courts and legislatures because the group, which represents 55,000 pediatricians, enjoys wide respect.

Legalizing second-parent adoptions, the academy said in its statement, is in the best interest of children because it guarantees the same rights and protections to homosexual families that are routinely accorded to heterosexual parents and their children. For example, legal adoption ensures that a child will have access to health insurance benefits from both parents and to Social Security survivor benefits should either parent die, and that a continuing legal relationship with both parents will exist even if the parents separate, influencing matters like custody, visiting rights and child support.

''This is really about the needs of children,'' said Dr. Joseph Hagan, a pediatrician in private practice in Vermont and chairman of the academy's committee on psychosocial aspects of child and family health, which drafted the policy statement.

Dr. Ellen Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Tufts New England Medical Center who was a consultant to the committee, said it had become clear to the academy ''that children whose parents happen to be gay or lesbian were lacking some of the security that other children can assume.''

The academy's policy is being praised by gay rights organizations. Patricia M. Logue, a senior counsel and family law expert for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national gay rights group, said the pediatricians' support was important because ''a lot of the problem out there is that people are just not familiar with our families and they operate out of fear.''

She added that many people ''look to doctors to dispel those kinds of fears.''

But Kenneth Connor, president of the Family Research Council, a group concerned with marriage and family issues, called it ''regrettable that the academy has succumbed to political correctness and has abandoned substantive research.''

Mr. Connor said his organization opposes any form of gay adoption because ''it trivializes the contribution that each gender, male and female alike, make to the physical, emotional and psychosocial development of their children.''

Most children of same-sex couples have only one legal parent, the parent who gave birth to or adopted them. The other, or second, parent must petition for adoption to establish a legally binding relationship with the child.

Many states have left decisions about second-parent adoptions to the courts. But three states -- Vermont, Connecticut and California -- have passed laws specifically allowing gay men and lesbians to adopt their partners' children. In four other states -- Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts -- and Washington, D.C., appellate courts have sanctioned the right to such adoptions.

By contrast, Florida prohibits gay men or lesbians from adopting children under any circumstances. Laws in two other states, Mississippi and Utah, effectively ban second-parent adoptions.

For Betsy Smith, 41, the executive director of a nonprofit organization in Boston, such geographical distinctions have meant staying in Massachusetts, where the Supreme Court has deemed second-parent adoptions legal, instead of moving back to Maine, where she and her partner are from, but where no court is known to have granted such an adoption.

Ms. Smith's partner, Jennifer Hoopes, gave birth to a boy, Justin, on Dec. 22 last year, and Ms. Smith is adopting him.

''Eventually we'll move back to Maine,'' she said. ''But for now we will stay here and have two kids here so we can take advantage of the law.''

In its statement, the pediatrics academy noted that ''a large body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages for health, adjustment and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual.''

A short report summarizing that literature accompanied the policy statement in the journal.

The academy also recommended in its statement that pediatricians familiarize themselves with the research and that they ''advocate for initiatives that establish permanency through co-parent or second-parent adoption for children of same sex partners.''

Dr. Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology at the University of California, agreed that the evidence that children of gay or lesbian parents incur no harm is convincing.

She said that other professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, have filed briefs on behalf of gay or lesbian parents in adoption cases or have passed resolutions endorsing such adoptions. Still, she said, the pediatricians' statement will be particularly influential ''because they are generally regarded as not a radical group and they have a hands-on connection with kids.''

But Dr. Steven Nock, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia whose field of research is family policy, said that while he was ''broadly sympathetic with the goals'' of the academy's statement, he was not convinced that the existing research was solid enough to form the basis for such a policy.

''Much of the literature does generally portray the kids of gays and lesbians as doing just fine,'' Dr. Nock said. ''The only question is whether a broad-based group of scientists would accept the literature as being objective and scientific.''

He added that he had ''some questions about the methods that were used in some of these studies and the methods that were used to extrapolate from them.''

For her part, Dr. Stacey said ''history indicates'' that the legalization of second-parent adoption ''is eventually going to happen, and it is certainly happening internationally and in all the other advanced industrial nations.''

''People are already doing this, de facto,'' she said. ''The question is are you going to give parents the same rights, and therefore the kids the same rights, and the same stability in their connection to their parents that other kids have?''

Correction: February 5, 2002, Tuesday An article yesterday about a new policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics supporting the right of gay men and lesbians to adopt their partners' children misstated the affiliation of Dr. Judith Stacey, a sociology professor who favors the policy. It is the University of Southern California, not the University of California.

  04/02/2002. The New York Times.


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