Can Gay Couples Adopt? What You Need to Know

If you’re considering adoption as a way to grow your LGBT family, the first question you have is probably, “Can gay couples adopt?”

The answer is absolutely. In fact, thanks to the marriage equality ruling of Obergefell vs. Hodges (which guaranteed same-sex couples’ right to marry) and the federal ruling that overturned a ban on adoption for LGBT individuals in Mississippi, married same-sex couples in the United States now have the same adoption rights as any heterosexual couples.

While the fight over gay adoption rights achieved a monumental step with these rulings in the U.S., if you’re a gay couple, your adoption rights may not be protected in other countries due to less progressive attitudes. Still, there are certain countries that welcome all prospective parents no matter their sexual orientation, so make sure to research these if you’re considering an international adoption.

Overall, know that same-sex couples can adopt in the U.S., but it’s important to work closely with an attorney to determine what your legal requirements and process might look like.

You Have the Right to Adopt

No matter which state you’re in, there are always adoption rights for gay couples like yourself that protect your ability to adopt a child. States cannot discriminate against people from adopting because of their sexual orientation — but, in a roundabout way to discriminate against LGBT couples before marriage equality, some did and still do require adoptive parents to be married if they plan on adopting jointly.

While this was a problem for same-sex parents’ adoption rights before the marriage equality ruling, now that same-sex couples can legally get married in all 50 states, that marriage requirement doesn’t restrict them from adopting a child.

But, what if you’re not married and want to adopt as a couple?

Adopting a child as a couple when you’re not married can be complicated, whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual. Because some states make it illegal for unmarried couples to adopt, you won’t be able to adopt jointly. Instead, you’ll need to complete a second-parent adoption (if you remain unmarried) or a stepparent adoption if you get married after the adoption. It’s always up to individuals whether they want to get married, but if you want to adopt a child with your spouse or partner, it’s recommended that you get married before starting the process — it will be much easier.

To learn more about the different processes of adoption and which one might be necessary for your situation, contact a local adoption attorney.

Why is Legally Adopting Your Child Important?

One reason why people are interested in gay rights and adoption is not because they want to adopt a child together — but because one partner has already adopted a child and the other partner already acts as a parental figure in that child’s life. This may occur when a single LGBT individual adopts a child before entering into a relationship, or when a same-sex couple adopted before the marriage equality ruling and could not both legally adopt their child — or didn’t think it was necessary.

However, this is incredibly risky. If both partners don’t have legal rights to a child, the spouse lacking rights cannot take custody of the child if something happens to their partner — no matter how long they’ve had a parent-child relationship. You may think it’s unnecessary to legally adopt a child that you’ve been acting as a parent to for so long, but by completing a stepparent or second-parent adoption, you can:

  • Protect your child’s right to insurance and inheritance
  • Be recognized as their parent during school pickups, doctor’s appointments and other events
  • Be able to obtain their medical records
  • And create secure, legal permanence for your family

In addition to cases where a spouse previously adopted a child, you may also need to complete an adoption if your partner is biologically related to a child that you conceived via assisted reproductive technology. Even if both of you are listed on your child’s birth certificate, you should still speak to an attorney about protecting your parental rights further through a legal adoption.

Potential for Adoption Discrimination and How to Avoid It

While gay couples are allowed to adopt thanks to the marriage equality ruling, there is always the potential for gay adoption discrimination among professionals. Currently, several states have passed or are considering “religious freedom” legislation that would allow faith-based adoption professionals to discriminate against same-sex couples who look to adopt. It’s impossible to completely erase all adoption discrimination for LGBT individuals, but even if you experience this from a professional, remember that you will always have the right to adopt — you just may need to go to a different professional.

It’s important to work closely with an attorney as you’re starting your adoption process; they fully understand the adoption laws in your state and whether you might experience challenges from some organizations. To make it easier for you, make sure you choose an LGBT-friendly adoption professional who is excited about helping you through the adoption process and will be there to assist you every step of the way.

Same-sex adoption can be a complicated process, and while LGBT adoption rights continue to make leaps and bounds from where they used to be, there may still be challenges ahead for any same-sex couple adopting. Make sure you choose a trusted adoption professional to help you through the process; this will be instrumental in helping you finally become the legal parent to the child of your dreams. And be reassured in knowing that, yes, same-sex couples can successfully adopt in the U.S.