Last edited: February 14, 2005

Texas Court Won’t Bar Adoptions

NewsPlanet, June 23, 1999

SUMMARY: The Texas Child Protective Services worker who removed the baby a lesbian couple was going to adopt has lost a bid to keep all the state’s available children away from gay families.

Legislation to block adoptions and fostering by gays and lesbians in Texas failed this year, and on June 21 a court case to the same end lost a round. Texas District Court Judge Bill Rhea rejected a request by the Plano-based Liberty Legal Institute for an emergency order to stop the state Department of Protective and Regulatory Services from making adoptive and foster placements in households with gays and lesbians. The opposing American Civil Liberties Union dubbed "political grandstanding" the Institute’s plan to present testimony by several caseworkers and by a lesbian couple who serve as foster parents; the judge refused to hear that testimony, asking for written briefs instead.

Rebecca Bledsoe is the plaintiff seeking the emergency order against adoptions and fostering by gays and lesbians; she did so with a motion filed last month on the same day that the Texas House State Affairs Committee heard testimony on one of two bills under consideration that would have the same effect. In 1997, Bledsoe, then a supervisor with Child Protective Services, removed a baby from the home of a Dallas lesbian couple who had fostered him and were adopting him. Bledsoe justified her actions with Texas’ rarely enforced 19th-century sodomy statute, but she was demoted (while retaining the same salary) for failure to follow agency procedure. (The boy found a home with out-of-state relatives.) Her case revealed that there really was no clear state policy either for or against gays and lesbians acting as foster or adoptive parents, and the Institute joined with her to try to force a policy against them, as well as to seek her reinstatement as a supervisor.

The ACLU’s national Gay and Lesbian Rights Project and Texas chapter intervened in Bledsoe’s main case in October 1998 on behalf of a lesbian foster mother threatened with removal of the child in her care. The ACLU believes that adoptive and foster parents should be judged on their individual abilities rather than their sexual orientation; as attorney Jennifer Middleton said, "There are too many needy kids in Texas waiting for good homes to let bigotry dictate their fate."

While Florida and Arkansas are the only two states left with such restrictive laws, state agencies in Utah and Louisiana this year adopted anti-gay policies.

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