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Gay and Lesbian Parent Adoptions

Can a Gay or Lesbian Couple Adopt a Child?

By Attorney Jeffrey B. Engle, Family Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

I have received a flurry of requests from loving couples seeking to adopt a child. Either the child of one of the birth parents in the relationship or the couple is seeking to do an outside adoption. Those couples have concerns because of their sexual preference or status as a gay or lesbian couple. With all the news and discussions from state to state they are concerned that a ban on "same sex marriage" will have a deleterious effect on their ability to adopt. The simple answer is "no," their is no such prohibition in PA or one that is pending.

Under well-settled Pennsylvania adoption law, a court considering the adoption of a child must determine that the needs and welfare of the child will be promoted by the adoption. The child's welfare is and has always been the focus in Pennsylvania, and "the welfare of the child is of paramount importance in adoption matters." In re Adoption of List, 418 Pa. 503, 515, 211 A.2d 870, 877 (1965); see also In the Interest of Coast, 385 Pa. Super. 450, 461, 561 A.2d 762, 767 (1989). This "best interests" standard requires the court to consider "all factors that legitimately affect the child's physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being." Clapper v. Harvey, 716 A.2d 1271, 1273 (1998); see also 42 Pa.C.S. § 5944. Thus, adoptions are granted when they are in the best interest of children by serving their needs and welfare.

As the research and clinical experience indicate, when a child is being raised by a gay or lesbian couple, formal adoption by the second-parent will ordinarily be in the child's best interests. Research indicates that gay men and lesbians are as good as parents as heterosexuals and that their children are as well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexuals. There is no evidence that being raised by a gay or lesbian couple harms the child in any way.