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    Michigan has the sixth largest foster care program in the nation. With more and more children falling into the system, it is time to look at how Michigan can make adopting children easier. In Michigan, it is illegal for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. An individual may adopt a child alone, but if a life partner is assisting in raising the child he or she cannot be on the birth certificate. This makes things difficult when it comes to benefits for the child or if the couple splits up.

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    Currently, there are 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have protections for two non-married same-sex couples to adopt children. There are seven states where someone could potentially face legal ramifications if they tried to petition for a second parent adoption. In a few states, second parent adoption is not legal, but there are ways for two individuals including same-sex partners to adopt. For example, in Wisconsin, a single individual can adopt and their partner can apply for guardianship rights, however their name would not appear on the birth certificate.

     

    States support fostering by LGBT parents by restricting discrimination (6 states)

     

    States are silent on fostering by LGBT parents (42 states + D.C.)

     

    States restrict fostering by LGBT parents (2 states)

    There are many arguments that support second parent adoption for same-sex couples. For one, with so many children homeless, it is imperative that every child has two loving parents, no matter their gender. Zach Wahls, gathered national attention in 2011, when he gave a speech to the Iowa State Legislature about being raised by two women. He stated his family was no different than any other family and he believed he has a successful future in front of him.  Another argument is the federal government should push for legislation to make these types of adoptions legal in every state, so every individual will always be protected under the law. For example, if the non-birth certificate mother, takes her child out of state for the weekend (and that state does not recognize second parent adoption) and an accident happens, the mother would not be able to make medical decisions on behalf of the child, even though she has a hand in raising the child. If a relationship between two partners ends, who will get custody of the child? Typically, it would be the partner on the birth certificate even though the other partner had been with the child for their entire life. Another argument for second parent adoption is if the parent on the birth certificate dies, the partner has every right to custody of the child. If there is only one person on the birth certificate it could be really difficult to figure out who is going to take care of the child.

    Some say that gays and lesbians should not be able to adopt children, because it is not traditional and immoral. Some believe that it could eventually damage the family structure. David Hogberg explained in an essay that “one man and one women” should head each family or the child would experience depression and confusion. He adds that gays and lesbians are not bad people but children are just better being raised by heterosexual parents. He also compares children of gays and lesbians to children being raised by divorced parents who, he claims do not turn out well. 

    In 2011, Senate Bill 167 introduced by Senator Rebekah Warren (D, Ann Arbor), would have allowed for two unmarried persons of any sexual orientation to adopt. Since this bill was not signed into law by the governor by the end of the legislative session (December 31st, 2012) the bill died in committee. Senator Warren introduced a similar bill this session, Senate Bill 457, which is not gaining any traction with only a few months left in the legislative year due to campaigning for the midterm elections. State Representative Jeff Irwin (D, Ann Arbor), also introduced a similar bill in the House (House Bill 4060) but has been unable to get a co-sponsor. These bills would give full parental rights to unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation. Most importantly, a partner name can be added to the birth certificate and will receive full rights to unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation. Most importantly, a partner name can be added to the birth certificate and will receive full rights to the child. Given the current make-up of the legislature and the bad luck of the two current bills, it seems Michigan will not be seeing any changes to its adoption program anytime soon unless it is done through the courts. 

    State Representative Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor and the sponsor of House Bill 4060, stated that all children deserve the same rights no matter who their parents are. He added in 2004, judges were granting these types of adoptions and that same year the Michigan Supreme Court ordered judges not to grant second parent adoptions. The representative hopes the federal judge will rule that the 2004 marriage ban is unconstitutional and that the state legislature will act and pass House Bill 4060 to allow all couples to adopt children.    

    I believe that if two responsible adults want to adopt children, they should be able to.  With the large amount of homeless and foster care children, it is important that we place them in homes where they will be taken care of. Arguments against couples adopting tends to be based on strong traditional religious opinion. Religious beliefs are very important to many people and this can be a difficult topic to talk about. Nobody is trying to undo traditional values; same-sex couples want to be able to raise their families like anyone else. Separation of Church and State should be considered when it comes to creating new public policy. If a couple proves to be unsuitable to raise a child, steps can be taken to have the child removed from the family just as in heterosexual relationships. 

    This is an important topic that needs more attention by the legislature. No matter your viewpoint, both sides make very different arguments and every voice should be heard.  

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Meet your Policy Fellow: Jocelyn Cutean

    Jocelyn Cutean serves as Morality and Family policy correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. She is a first-year student at Michigan State, majoring in Theatre and English. Jocelyn has experience working on the executive board of the Waterford Chapter Coalition for Youth. She has also piloted a grant funded city wide public service announcement entitled, "It Just Wasn't Worth It" which exposes the repercussions of driving while intoxicated. Jocelyn enjoys art of all forms, from writing to performance.