Nowadays, we see same-sex couples adopt children quite frequently. What once appeared to only happen among Hollywood stars, where money and power were the primary pre-requisites, is now a widely-accepted practice.
While the legalization of gay marriage has surely impacted on the proliferation of same-sex couple adoption, Illinois courts have been granting same-sex couple adoptions for well over a decade. Likewise, parentage courts, where the parties are unmarried and require enforcement of child support or parenting time, have long been granting orders which protect same-sex couples’ parental rights.
The debate in Illinois, at one point, largely focused on procedural concerns rather than ethical ones. The issue was if the Court recognized that unmarried same-sex cohabitants have “standing”, or a legal basis, to petition the Court to adopt a child, would that encourage other unmarried persons to pursue adoptions. For example, could any combination of persons, unmarried or married, try to adopt? See In Petition of K.M., 274 Ill. App. 3d 189 (1st Dist. 1995). The Appellate Court in In Petition of K.M. held:
“While it must be acknowledged, as the circuit court fears, that such an interpretation of the [Adoption] Act would give in fact standing to any group considering itself a family where one or more of the members of the group were related to the child or children to be adopted, the circuit court retains the safeguard of evaluating whether the granting of such petition would be in the best interests of the child or children. Such a safeguard will prevent adoption of any child by a “cult group” where such adoption would not be in the child’s best interest.”
Regarding “ethical” or “moral” issues, Illinois courts have held that homosexuality has not been held to disqualify parental rights. See Pleasant v. Pleasant, 256 Ill. App. 742, 755 (1st Dist. 1993). Absent any finding of harm to the child, sexual orientation shall not prevent an adoption as a general rule.
Most often, as in any adoption case, the more common challenges presented include notifying or obtaining the consent of the biological parents who may be estranged or in prison
All of these issues can be navigated with your family law specialist who should be well-versed in adoption.