Monday, May 15, 2006

News-Sentinel On Gay Adoptions: Second Front Of Culture War

The Indiana Law Blog catches an editorial in today's Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel commenting on a recent announcement by Sen. Jeff Drozda that he intends to introduce legislation next year to ban same-sex couple adoptions. The latest legislative debate, which the editorial describes as "the second front in the culture war (the first being same-sex marriage which exploded in the 2004 elections)", should be taken up by the legisture, but that's about all the paper agrees with Drozda on. The editorial reads in part:

Whether you agree with Drozda’s position or not, he is right that the issue belongs in the legislature rather than the courts. Both the marriage and adoption questions form a large part of how a society and culture define themselves. That is a mission best decided by all the people – acting through their elected representatives. And the legislature also has a responsibility to put some lacking clarity into state law. What does it want to permit or prohibit when it comes to unmarried couples? What should it do, given that the law permits adoptions by single adults and that the legislature doesn’t seem especially upset by the fact?

In discussing the issue, legislators should talk at least as much about the children in adoptions as they do about the rights of various groups of adults. The same kinds of safeguards the law has always tried to put in for the benefit of adoptees should still be at the top of the list, and the same sorts of questions need to be asked of those who would adopt. Are they financially able to handle the adoption and emotionally equipped? How stable would the home environment be? Parts of the discussion will certainly get tricky. Marriage has always been one indicator of stability. But gay people can’t get married – and aren’t likely to be able to anytime soon; that battle in the culture war has already been decided in Indiana. If state law doesn’t care about singles (of any sexual persuasion) adopting, what sense does it make to not allow adoption by unmarried couples?

Some might like the issue to be framed in terms of whether gay couples can be as effective as parents as straight couples. In Indiana, though, the question is likely to be whether gay couples should even have the right to adopt. And not many observers expect Indiana to be a leading state in advancing the gay agenda. For one thing, the legislature is apt to be more conservative with the loss of Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton, seen as a moderate. And, as political science professor Bill Bloomquist told the Indianapolis Star, even Democrats in this state are not especially liberal on social issues.

If the right questions are addressed and the focus remains on the welfare of the children, the state has a chance of getting the issue right, no matter how fiercely the larger cultural battle is waged.

While the newpaper's editorial writers hearts are in the right place, they are wrong to think that legislative action is required. The legislature has already spoken. The question of who is the appropriate person to adopt a child has been rightfully left to the courts to decide. The proper standard the legislature has given to courts to use in deciding that question is "the best interests of the child."As the editorial writers astutely observe, the legislature has specifically allowed single persons and married couples to adopt. If the legislature thinks it's quite all right for a single person to adopt, then what objection should there be to two unmarried persons adopting?

The problem with the legislature getting involved, as the editorial points out, is that the focus will be on whether or not gay couples should have the right to adopt. The real focus should be on what is best for the children. Sadly, Sen. Drozda and others like him, could care less about the welfare of the children. They care only about having a gay-baiting wedge issue to use in their campaigns to stir up religious right voters.

As the editorial pointed out, there are currently 16 states which have laws banning same-sex parent adoptions. Eleven of those states adopted their bans during the anti-gay hysteria created by the talk of banning same-sex marriages in 2004. It is the courts and not legislatures which are more capable of deciding adoption cases in a fair and equitable manner which does not discriminate among would-be adopting parents.

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