Friday, March 02, 2007


The new issue of Texas Monthly has a really interesting article about the current state of gay parenting in Texas. Surprisingly, San Antonio has the highest percentage of children living with gay parents of any other U.S. city, and according to a 2000 census poll by the Urban Institute, gay couples in Texas are more likely to adopt children than in any other state in the country. Nationally, about 1 in 4 gay couples has children, but in Texas it's closer to 1 in 3 couples.

The article focuses primarily on the Texas State Legislator's attempts to deny parenting status, and the ability to be foster parents, to gay couples throughout the past decade, with most efforts led by two Republican legislators, Warren Chisum and Robert Talton. In 1999, and again in 2003, legislation was introduced that would have forced the removal of children from any "gay" homes, and banned all future placement in any gay households. Another bill filed in 2003 would have outright legally banned gay adoptions.

As of now, gay adoption isn't illegal in Texas. Generally, when a gay couple has children, it's a child left over from a previous marriage or relationship, and often the new partner adopts the kid. In both straight and gay adoptions, this is called "second-parent" adoption, and is incredibly common, as you can imagine, among straight people. In Texas, as in other states, it's not illegal for gays to engage in second-parent adoption, but not exactly condoned, either. In cases where a gay couple adopts a child that doesn't biologically belong to either of them, or when a gay couple applies to be foster parents, the home is treated as single-parent household with "other adults present," and only one partner is principally dealt with by the CPS (Child Protective Services).

What makes all of this so sad, as is the case with gay marriage, are the potential legal quagmires and emotional devastation. If a same-sex couple splits up, whoever the "principal" guardian is can legally bar the other partner from ever having any contact with the child whatsoever, and the barred partner has absolutely no legal recourse. They may be prevented from visiting children in the hospital or adding a child to an employer's medical plan. If the birth or adoptive parent should die, the remaining parent again has absolutely no legal obligations or privileges to the kid. The child's biological relatives, or even a sperm donor that may have never met the child, have more legal right than a parent who might have raised the kid from birth. There are more children supported by Social Security payments in America from a deceased parent than are on welfare, but again, a non-custodial gay parent cannot (absent a legal relationship) bequeath these payments to their children, even if the parent has paid into Social Security for decades. Surviving children are also subject to significantly higher taxes on inherited property than are children of heterosexual parents who both have legal rights to the child.

Gay parenting in Texas became a huge issue in 1997, when CPS employee Rebecca Bledsoe removed a foster child from a family in Dallas for the sole reason that the parents were both lesbians. She was admonished and demoted by CPS, so she sued. Her lawsuit held little weight, but it opened the doors for all kinds of legislative action against gay foster parenting and adoption (in addition to marriage), all of which were supported by then governor George W. Bush.

In one side-note, in a 2006 television interview, Tennessee legislator Debra Maggart claimed that gay men adopted children for the sole purpose of having unfettered access to children they can molest. This tells you the kind of mentality we're fighting here.

In 2005, Robert Talton once again tried to ban gay foster parenting, and it was defeated only at the last minute, partly through the work of openly gay Austin legislator Glen Maxey. Of the roughly 19,000 children in foster care in Texas, between 2,000 and 3,000 are presumed to be in gay households. The immediate cost of finding new placement for them would have cost the state (taxpayers) over $8 million, and provide a huge setback for CPS, which is already scrambling to find enough suitable homes for all the foser kids.

After the 2005 defeat, to his credit, Chisum agreed to leave the gays alone. "Some of them do a fabulous job of stepping in when no one else will," he said at the time. Talton, the magazine notes, remains unconvinced and is expected to bring up the issue in session once again in 2007. Gay families all over Texas are holding their collective breath.

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