Last edited: December 06, 2004

Bills Aim To Bar Adoption By Gays

Cox News Service, February 13, 1999

By Scott S. Greenberger

AUSTIN, Texas – When Roberto’s two mothers pack up for a family outing, one of them lets the 3-year-old hold her purse to reassure him that he won’t be left behind. Two fathers take 8-year-old Frank, who as a toddler witnessed and may have experienced physical and sexual abuse, to visit his biological brother.

Child Protective Services, the state agency that takes custody of abused or neglected children, took both Roberto and Frank from dangerous homes and gave them their new, nontraditional families: Roberto’s foster mother is a lesbian and is raising the boy (whose name has been changed for this story) and his 15-month-old brother with her partner. Frank’s gay adoptive father also shares parenting duties with a companion.

Two Texas lawmakers have proposed an end to such arrangements. Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) and Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena) have filed separate bills that would bar CPS from designating gays or lesbians as foster parents. Chisum’s legislation also would ban gays or lesbians from adopting children in CPS custody.

Talton and Chisum say that children are harmed by living in homes with gays or lesbians.

"When they make 18, they can make a choice on whether they want to approve of that type of lifestyle or not," Talton said. "I don’t think we ought to be teaching them that it’s OK at that young age.

"I don’t understand today why they’re allowing people to be foster parents when they’re openly breaking the law," he added, referring to the state’s anti-sodomy laws.

Under both bills, CPS would have to remove a child from a foster home if it uncovered homosexual activity. Roberto’s foster mother, who didn’t want her name used because her adoption case is still pending, said she is horrified at that prospect. She noted that the boy has already lived in two foster homes and two shelters since he was taken from his biological parents.

"We always tell him, ‘You’re going to be here for Christmas, you’re going to be here for your birthday,’" she said. "He used to say to us, ‘Don’t lose me.’"

Opponents of the bills note that children in CPS custody – many of whom have physical, mental or emotional problems – wait an average of more than three years to be placed in homes and that excluding gays and lesbians would only exacerbate a shortage of foster families. They point out that CPS already favors conventional mother-father families when it chooses foster homes.

"When we went to CPS, they told us right up front that we’d get the children that nobody else wanted," said Frank’s adoptive father, Scott, who didn’t want his last name used, fearing for his child’s well-being.

The agency has no rule prohibiting placements with gays and lesbians. Nor does it keep statistics on how many homosexual foster and adoptive parents there are in Texas, though caseworkers may have that knowledge when they place children. A 1998 survey showed that CPS had placed 70 percent of children in homes headed by married couples.

Last year, a CPS worker in Dallas was demoted after removing a baby boy from the home of a lesbian couple. The worker, Rebecca Bledsoe, said she felt compelled to remove the child because homosexual conduct is a misdemeanor in Texas, and she’s filed suit against the agency. CPS officials said they demoted her because she violated agency rules in abruptly removing the child from the home.

Gov. George W. Bush, who said he hasn’t seen the proposed legislation, stated this week that "our agencies ought to work hard to make sure that adoptions and foster children are placed in traditional homes – man and wife." He declined to comment on whether gays and lesbians should be banned from adopting children or being foster parents, or whether children should be removed from households headed by homosexuals.

Gay and lesbian activists are planning to send homosexual parents to visit legislators – including Chisum and Talton – to put a human face on the debate.

"They need to see the faces of the people they’re hurting," said Dianne Hardy-Garcia of the Austin-based Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, which is organizing statewide opposition.

There are subtle, but significant, differences between the Chisum and Talton bills.

Chisum wants CPS to investigate whether "homosexual conduct is occurring or is likely to occur" in a potential foster or adoptive home. The wording suggests that even if the foster or adoptive parents aren’t homosexual, they could be disqualified by the presence of a gay or lesbian person in the household.

Under Talton’s bill, CPS would try to find out whether potential or current foster parents are homosexual or bisexual. Homosexuals and bisexuals applying to be foster parents would be disqualified, and the agency would take children away from homosexuals and bisexuals currently serving as foster parents for CPS kids.

Chisum and Talton say their bills wouldn’t apply when deceased biological parents have specified in their wills that a child should be turned over to a gay relative. But opponents – and some legal experts – contend that vague legislative language might prompt some judges to block such adoptions.

CPS contracts with some private adoption agencies to find homes for children in state custody, and the bills would bar private agencies from placing those kids with gays or lesbians. Otherwise, the legislation wouldn’t affect private adoption agencies, which have their own policies on placing children in homes.

Chisum denies that there is a shortage of foster and adoptive homes.

"Clearly, the record is there are a lot of people out there looking for children," he said. "People in my area go to Bosnia and Russia to adopt children at great expense to themselves."

Chisum argues that his bill, which is similar to laws passed in Utah and New Hampshire, is designed to protect children. He points to a report in the May 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association which found that gays and lesbians are more likely to be drug abusers than heterosexuals are.

"They have more incidences of sexually transmitted diseases, more instances of having multiple partners. It’s just a more violent atmosphere we’re placing these children in – predictably more violent than a regular heterosexual family situation," he said of gay and lesbian homes.

Some research suggests otherwise. Studies are relatively scarce, according to a 1995 American Psychological Association survey, but they have found that children raised by gays and lesbians aren’t more likely to be homosexual or "to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to the children of heterosexual parents."

And while it’s true that there is no shortage of people wanting to adopt healthy Anglo babies, few of the roughly 2,000 CPS children awaiting adoption fit that description.

CPS couldn’t provide statistics on the children awaiting adoption, but less than 30 percent of the children that CPS placed in adoptive homes in 1997 were Anglo. About 11 percent had physical, mental or emotional problems, and roughly 42 percent were older than 5. More than 11 percent of CPS children reach the age of 18 without being adopted.

"If you have a problem with this, then you become a foster parent and you take these kids home," said Roberto’s foster mother.

"Our goals are the same as any other family: to raise healthy, happy children with good moral values and who are good people," she said.

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