June 7, 2000
Homosexuals' children not of one mind on adoptionsCheryl Wetzstein
Homosexuals have been quietly raising children for decades. Adopting them has become more common — and public — since the early 1990s.
The issue will be addressed in "Our House: A Very Real Documentary About Kids of Gay and Lesbian Parents," airing on local PBS stations June 14 and June 22. Some adult children of same-sex couples, including Suzanne Cook and "Allen," are critical of such adoptions. Both of them are children of parents who divorced their spouses in favor of same-sex partners.
"Some, but not all, lesbians and gays are using children not only to fill their own 'holes in their souls,' but to forward their political agenda, which is: 'If there's a kid in the home, it's a family, give me my rights,' " says Mrs. Cook, who now works with ministries for former homosexuals.
Allen, who asked that his real name not be used, says that since even homosexual-friendly Scandinavian countries "draw the line at adoption, that's where I draw the line."
Ryan LaLonde and Meema Spadola, two 20-somethings also raised by homosexual parents, emphatically support homosexual adoption.
"My family was a beneficial and normal family," said Mr. LaLonde, 25, a graphic artist in the District of Columbia.
In the District, he adds, "68 percent of foster children age out" —become too old to receive state care — "before they're adopted, and that is just horrible . . . There are a lot of fit, gay homes that these children can go into."
"I know that gay and lesbian couples and singles can make wonderful parents," says Miss Spadola, the filmmaker overseeing the PBS documentary.
Social scientists likely will have to wait 20 years to answer questions about the merits of same-sex parenting, because it will take time before the children adopted today become adults capable of reflecting on their childhoods.
Until then, lawmakers, judges, adoption agencies, foster parents, child-welfare agencies, parents and children are left to make adoption decisions based on scant data.
For instance, it is not known how many of the estimated 120,000 U.S. adoptions a year are to homosexuals. The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse estimates there are 1.5 million to 5 million lesbian mothers and 1 million to 3 million homosexual fathers. As of 1990, between 6 million and 14 million children were being raised in homosexual households.
According to the May 2000 edition of "Demography," published by the Population Association of America, 21.6 percent of lesbian homes and 5.2 percent of male homosexual homes have children present, wrote Dan Black of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University in New York.
To date, 28 states have no known homosexual adoptions, according to Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Marriage Law Project at Catholic University, two groups tracking this issue. Six of those states — Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Utah and Wisconsin — have forbidden the practice in court rulings, regulations or state law.
In the other 22 states and the District, at least one homosexual adoption has occurred. New Hampshire last year repealed a ban on homosexual adoption and applications are under way, said Lisa Bellete of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE) in New Hampshire.
Supporters say homosexual adoption links needy children with loving, nurturing and talented parents.
"Gay and lesbian families are people who desperately want to have children. There are no accidental families because 'the birth control didn't work,' " said Miss Spadola, who was 10 when her mother began living with a lesbian partner.
Miss Spadola and others say that children of homosexuals are no more likely than other children to become homosexuals. They also reject the notion that children are part of an agenda to normalize homosexual families, or that growing up with same-sex parents is unhealthy.
"Those are really horrible and damaging stereotypes," says Miss Spadola, who gently declines to discuss her own sexuality or parenting plans.
Opponents say homosexual adoption is rarely, if ever, in the best interest of a child.
Children adopted by homosexuals, they add, may become homosexuals themselves, become neurotic, have difficulties in heterosexual relationships or have sexual-identity problems.
"Lesbian households are like feminism taken to an extreme —the only thing a man is necessary for is his sperm," said Peter LaBarbera, culture analyst for Family Research Council.
Mrs. Cook remembers trying to adapt to her father's new, highly sexualized lifestyle.
"My dad was gay," she said. "At first I rejected it, and then I did everything I could to embrace it because he's mine. He's my flesh and blood and I love him."
Mrs. Cook became sexually promiscuous, concentrating on older men. "This was all to get my dad to find me attractive and love me in a normal, heterosexual way like a father and a daughter," she explained.
"It's been a tremendous fight to stay sane," she says.
Mrs. Cook escaped her wild life through therapy and a religious conversion. "I saw God as a father figure I never had. I was re-parented by God," she says.
Married 15 years with one child, Mrs. Cook believes her father's situation — a divorce followed by a homosexual coming-out — is a worst-case scenario. "Gay adoption is not healthy for children. Period. End of story," she says.
Allen was a teen-ager in 1951 when, after years of fighting, his parents divorced. His mother moved in with the lesbian who would be her partner for 30 years.
"My mother and her partner were smart, kind and generous financially," Allen says. Their home was pleasant and social, although "all the adults I came into contact with were gays or lesbians."
Allen grew up, married and had four children, but underwent therapy for years. Today, he thinks there are probably "many lesbian families" where the children are better off than they would be in other situations. However, he worries that homosexual groups are "trying to blur and obliterate" the biological and cultural "connectedness of children, families and marriage."
He supports homosexual adoption as "the exception, not the rule."
Mr. LaLonde, who lives with a "domestic partner" and would like to be a parent someday, is the D.C. representative of COLAGE.
Mr. LaLonde's parents broke up when he was a boy, with his mother moving in with a lesbian partner. The move was unusual in his small town, but he says his family remained "close knit" and he and his brother regularly saw their father, grandparents, aunts, uncles and his mother's partner's family.
Life became harmonious and prosperous, with the biggest problems being "everyday things" like having to argue to get his mother's partner into his high-school graduation or hearing his mother called derogatory names.
If the environment is supportive and open-minded, having homosexual parents is "the easiest thing in the world to talk about," Miss Spadola says.
One of Miss Spadola's favorite quotes in her documentary comes from Daniel, 13, who was adopted by two homosexual men: "It would be so much better if everybody who wants to ask me [about having two dads] would be in one big room and I tell them. Then I'd be free for the whole rest of my life and not have to answer them anymore."
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