Same Sex Couples Face Big Adoption Hurdles
A lawsuit filed in federal court in Michigan two weeks ago could change the way state laws consider same-sex couples with adopted children, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported.
Current law allows only one parent to adopt kids, but if something happens to that parent, the other partner has no parental rights. That means the parents cannot sign for their own children’s medical treatment, and the kids don’t have the same inheritance rights or rights to social security disability or health insurance.
April Deboer and Jayne Rowse have raised three children since birth, but state laws allows only one of them to be each child’s legal parent. “Michigan has some of the worst laws in the country for gay and lesbian parents,” says attorney Carole Stanyar, who represents them.
One of the women adopted one child – while the other woman had to adopt the other two – that’s because the law in Michigan won’t let them jointly adopt all three kids. And they’re hoping this lawsuit will change the lives of children all over Michigan.
Deboer and Rowse have dedicated their lives to raising three small children – two of whom have special needs. Deboer and Rowse are both nurses – and they have been in a committed relationship for more than a decade.
“When we were foster parents, we had more rights to our children than we do now as adoptive parents,” says Rowse. “We each had the legal say-so in what happened to our foster son. And now that he’s adopted, she’s like an invisible person to him in the eyes of the law.”
Stanyar and attorney Dana Nessel are filing a lawsuit in Federal Court against Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette, challenging Michigan’s Adoption Code, which allows only married couples or single people to adopt.
Lawyers say the children of same-sex couples also don’t have the same inheritance rights that other kids do. They also can’t receive social security disability from the non-adoptive parent, or health insurance. Also if a same-sex couple separates, they have no legal ability to see the children that they didn’t adopt.
Nessel says if this civil rights suit changes the law, approximately 10,000 children in same-sex homes in Michigan will be impacted. She says hundreds of other same-sex couples will start giving permanent homes to foster children.
“They want to take children who have no homes, who have no parents and give them a real family,” says Nessel. “And they’re afraid to do it, because they don’t want to be faced with the decision of who gets to be the legal parent of the child. So they simply don’t do it or they leave the state.”
“We want to protect our children,” says Deboer.
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