April 20, 2013

Adoptions also at stake in gay-marriage decision

How the high court rules on DOMA and Prop 8 will affect children as well as gay and lesbian adults.

By DAVID CRARY The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Kevin Covey, center left, and his husband, Joseph, stand with their twin 9-year-old sons Austin, left, and Dakota in Newport Beach, Calif. The federal government doesn’t recognize the men’s marriage under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, under review by the Supreme Court.

The Associated Press

Such assertions exasperate many gay parents, including William Sherr and Estevan Garcia of New York City. They have provided foster care for dozens of children over a dozen years, and are now raising three adopted children ages 12, 10 and 6.

"I look at my kids and how they're doing in their lives, and where they would be if we weren't their parents," Sherr said. "It really upsets me when I look at all the kids in foster care and how much better off they'd be if they were in loving, lifelong homes."

Sherr, who's now a stay-at-home dad, and Garcia, a pediatrician, met 13 years ago in Texas. They moved to Seattle so they could jointly adopt their youngest son, got married in Canada in 2002, then moved to New York in 2004.

New York is one of nine states, along with the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Without federal recognition of such marriages, gay couples in other states face a legal patchwork when it comes to adoption. Some states make it easy for such couples to adopt jointly, while others -- including Utah, Mississippi and Louisiana -- prohibit it even though single gays are allowed to adopt.

Edith Morris, a family-law attorney in New Orleans, said Louisiana allows adoptions only by single adults and married couples -- which excludes gay couples since the state bars them from marrying.

"If they want to adopt as a couple, they have to move somewhere else, and that can involve a lot of hardship since some states have residency requirements for adoption," Morris said.

In many states, there's no statewide legal precedent for adoption by gay couples, and the situation may vary from county to county.

Nonetheless, adoption by gays is surging. According to the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, there were nearly 30,000 adopted children being raised by same-sex couples in 2009, a threefold increase from the start of the decade.

In Brea, Calif., 9-year-old twins Austin and Dakota Covey have been living with their fathers since they were 4, although the adoptions weren't finalized until 2011. The dads were able to marry in 2008 during a 142-day window when gay marriage was legal in California before voters banned it with the ballot measure known as Proposition 8.

"From my kids' perspective, they really keep it simple," said Joseph Covey. "Love is love."

The Supreme Court, in addition to considering the Defense of Marriage Act, will be ruling in a separate case on whether Prop 8 should be struck down -- a step that would likely allow gay marriage in California to resume. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in discussing the California case, suggested that the welfare of children will weigh heavily in his deliberations.

Children in these families "want their parents to have full recognition and full status," he said. "The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?"

Taylor, of Lambda Legal, said kids, as well as gay adults, are victims of laws such as Prop 8.

"Marriage bans send a message not only to parents but also to their children that they should be ashamed of who their families are," Taylor said. "We're not talking about abstractions and theories. We're talking about real human beings, who shouldn't be told there's something wrong with their family."


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