Sometimes the prejudice of some people in the United States amazes me. But I am not so much amazed, but ashamed of the feelings of some African Americans when it comes to gay and lesbian adoptions.While having a discussion in one of my classes – which arose from a debate on whether Rosie O’Donnell should be allowed to keep her adopted children now that she has come out of the closet – I was practically pounced on. I argued qualified gays and lesbians deserve to be considered as adoptive parents just as heterosexual are. A number of the students, all black, were adamant in their argument that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children, “and many laws uphold this feeling,” one woman said. That may be true, but that doesn’t make it right.Another woman said, “Gay parents can’t properly raise a heterosexual child, just as white parents cannot properly raise a black child. That’s just the way life is.”I couldn’t even get the words out of my mouth fast enough to correct her erroneous statement.Studies have shown that lesbians and gay men can and do make good parents. The American Psychology Association, in a 1995 report reviewing the research, observed that, “not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents” and concluded that “home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychological growth.”I asked her to show me the studies that prove homosexuals cannot properly raise children. She has yet to get back to me on that point.Even more disturbing than her comment, is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of children in foster care waiting to be adopted and so few qualified, heterosexual people stepping up to fill these much-needed roles as parents.In 1998, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Web site, there was an estimated 500,000 children in foster care. One hundred thousand of those children needed to be adopted. And, there were only 20,000 qualified adoptive parents willing to adopt these children.There is much evidence documenting the serious damage that long-term foster care often does to children. The ACLU Web site also found that children frequently become victims of the “foster care shuffle,” in which they are moved from temporary home to temporary home. A child stuck in permanent foster care can live in 20 or more homes by the time she or he reaches eighteen.It’s not surprising, though that the Web site also found that long-term foster care is associated with increased emotional problems, delinquency, substance abuse, low self-esteem and academic problems. Thus, excluding someone as an adoptive parent applicant because of their sexual orientation rather than their parenting skills only hurts a child rather than helps he or she.Furthermore, opposition to anti-gay adoption bills is not based on “gay rights,” because all adoption statutes make it clear, and voters and legislators understand that nobody has the “right” to adopt a child. Instead, adoptive parents should be chosen based solely on their documented ability to be good parents.The Child Welfare League of America, the nation’s oldest children’s advocacy organization, argues that gays and lesbians seeking to adopt should be evaluated just like other prospective adoptive applicants.Thus, the governing principle of all adoption policies should be the best interests of the particular child in need of placement in a permanent home and not the sexual orientation of the prospective parents.
Saleemah Stanley, 22, is a senior newspaper journalism student from Sarasota. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.