Adoption bill seeks to bar sexual-orientation discrimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Adoption agencies and foster programs that receive federal money would be barred from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation under a bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act died in committee in the last Congress, but since then opinion on gay rights has moved considerably in the Capitol, particularly on same-sex marriage, which the U.S. Supreme Court is considering this year.

“Are we so heartless that we would demand children grow up in group homes rather than be adopted by loving, effective single parents or capable, willing same-sex couples?” said Lewis, who adopted his son. “We are fooling ourselves if we believe that is the right thing to do.”

Lewis, D-Ga., was joined by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., for a Capitol news conference. He said the next step will be to seek more co-sponsors for the bill.

According to a UCLA study, more than 16,000 same-sex couples are raising about 22,000 adopted children nationwide, constituting 1.4 percent of adopted children living with two parents. Another 2,600 couples are taking care of 3,400 foster children, the researchers found.

Most states are silent on whether same-sex couples can adopt. A handful of states prohibit the practice or explicitly favor married men and women.

The Family Research Council is opposed to the bill because of the effect it fears the bill would have on Christian adoption and foster agencies that favor traditional families and get federal funds.

“What they’re doing is closing down Christian adoption agencies,” said Tom McClusky, FRC’s vice president for government affairs. “Their bill would make it federal law that you could not prioritize putting a child in a home with a mother and a father.”

Philip McAdoo, of Atlanta, attended Tuesday’s news conference with his 7-year-old adopted son, Zaden. He and his partner, Sean Cavanaugh, adopted Zaden last year after a lengthy process. McAdoo said he did not feel discriminated against except when officials refused to put two men on Zaden’s birth certificate. He said the bill would further legitimize adoption for same-sex couples.

“It’s not atypical when you grow up to see parents who have the same sex with kids,” McAdoo said. “And I think it’s important for Zaden to realize that he is a part of a loving family regardless.”