States Weigh Ban on Adoption by Gay Parents The battle over the role of gays and lesbians in society may be moving from marriage to the homefront as a number of states are gearing up to oppose gay adoption. Some 16 states are discussing legislation to curtail or outright ban such adoptions.
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States Weigh Ban on Adoption by Gay Parents

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States Weigh Ban on Adoption by Gay Parents

States Weigh Ban on Adoption by Gay Parents

Only Available in Archive Formats.

LYNN NEARY, host:

From NPR News in Washington, I'm Lynn Neary and this is TALK OF THE NATION. Following closely on the heels of the campaign against gay marriage, some state legislatures are considering bans on adoption by gay men and lesbians. Jennifer Pizer, an attorney with the Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argues such moves can be harmful to the children involved.

Ms. JENNIFER PIZER (Senior Attorney, Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund): On a case-by-case basis, courts should approve adoptions that will serve the interests of children, and they should do that whether the parents are gay, lesbian, unmarried, married, straight, it doesn't matter. It's about the needs of a child.

NEARY: But those who oppose gay adoption also say they are on the side of the children because they believe being raised by gay parents is not good idea. The move to ban gay adoptions.

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NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington, sitting in for Neal Conan. The battle over the role of gays and lesbians in society may be moving from marriage to the home front, as a number of states are gearing up to oppose gay adoption. The latest is Ohio, where a measure to ban adoption by gay men and lesbians was introduced in the state legislature last month. Some 16 states, including Alabama, Alaska, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Oregon, are taking steps to end gay adoptions. It's a high-stakes debate with the welfare of children at its core.

Later in the program, the growth of the nouveau rich in India. But first, the battle over gay adoptions. We'd like to hear from you. If you are a gay couple with adopted children, what has your experience been? And if you think gay adoption is a bad idea, tell us why. Join the conversation. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. And our email is talk@npr.org. Andréa Stone is congressional correspondent for USA Today. She joins now in Studio 3A. Thanks for being with us today, Andrea.

Ms. ANDREA STONE (Congressional Correspondent, USA Today): Thank you. Thank you for having me.

NEARY: First of all, 16 states, why are so many state legislatures considering some kind of action on this issue right now, do you think?

Ms. STONE: Well, I think in some of them, in many of them it's just talk right now, but it is being considered. And in a lot of these states, these are states that in 2004 had ballot initiatives to ban gay marriage. There were 11 states in 2004 that had these ballot initiatives, and I think that the people who were behind these, who were supporting them, thought that it was so successful, especially in bringing conservative voters out, and that was a presidential election year, then maybe it would work again in either the midterm elections this year, or if they can't get it together in time, maybe the 2008 presidential.

NEARY: When you say the people behind this, who are you talking about?

Ms. STONE: We're talking about conservative groups, some Christian groups that are Family Research Council and other groups that are, you know, that feels that this is part of a broader social agenda that includes marriage, and marriage is still a big issue. Congress, the Senate is going to be voting on same-sex amendment to the U.S. Constitution in June, and the House will probably be taking it up. And at least six states are also thinking about having ballot initiatives this November to deal with the marriage issue. So, they see it as part and parcel of the same issue. As one conservative said, you know, we in Ohio, he said you know, we've defined what marriage is, now we need to take that further and say that, say children deserve to be in that kind of relationship.

NEARY: Politically, before we get in to the issues, other issues involved, politically, does this issue seem to have as much traction as the marriage debate?

Ms. STONE: I think it's a little stickier, because we're not just talking about two consenting adults who decide to be in a relationship, whatever that is. We're talking about children. In a lot of cases, these are children who are "difficult to place." They're older children. They're children who either physical or mental disabilities, who have been abused in a previous home situation. And they're not the people that a lot of straight couples want to adopt.

And actually, during the course of reporting this story, interviewed Rosie O'Donnell, the comedian who has four adopted children, including one that was conceived by her partner. And she said you know, growing up gay, you already feel like the outsider, you already feel like there's something wrong with you. And so that you can sort of connect with these children who have a lot of, if you will, baggage that they bring to a home. So, I think that a lot of these hard to adopt children, kind of, are more, I think, you know, other guests will talk about it, but I think gay couples maybe more willing to give them a chance.

NEARY: And let me just clarify something, though. Although you're talking about the hard to adopt children who may be taken in by gay families, or adopted by gay families, we're not just talking about those hard to adopt children, those kinds of adoptions being banned. We are talking about all...

Ms. STONE: All.

NEARY: All adoptions.

Ms. STONE: All adoptions of infants, of you know, second, you know. A lot of gay couples one, like Rosie O'Donnell's partner, Kelly, had a baby and then Rosie adopted the baby. Under some of these laws, she wouldn't have been able to do that.

NEARY: Do we know just how many kids are adopted into same-sex households?

Ms. STONE: It's very difficult to know. And there, it's not something that the government collects data on. There was, based on the 2000 census report, there was a UCLA demographer who used to be at the Urban Institute name Gary Gates who studies gays and lesbians, and he analyzed the data, and he estimates that there are about 250,0000 children who are being raised by same-sex couples. And that about five percent of those, or about 12,500, were adopted, and that doesn't even include singles, single parents. So, it's very hard to get a grip on what we're talking about here number wise.

NEARY: Now in terms of kids who are hard to adopt, who may be adopted by gay couples, do we have any numbers, say, on the number of children in foster care, for instance, who you might be affected if these kinds of adoptions are...

Ms. STONE: Well, we do. Well, there are over half a million across the country who are in foster care right now. And about 120,000 of them are available for adoption, where the parents no longer have guardianship of them. But only less than half of that, 50,000, actually find permanent homes each year. So there's a lot of kids out there who are waiting for homes who aren't getting them.

NEARY: All right. There are 16 states that are in some stage of this, but Ohio...

Ms. STONE: They've actually introduced a bill.

NEARY: Okay, tell us about the bill in Ohio. What does that call for? Is that a model that the other states may be looking at, or...

Ms. STONE: It would bar any adoptions by lesbians and gays, period. Couples, singles, if you were gay, you wouldn't be able to adopt.

NEARY: And what of some of the other proposals that are out there in the other states?

Ms. STONE: Well, I mean, every state, you know, adoption is something like marriage that is decided by state laws. And right now, there's kind of a hodgepodge of laws around the country. For instance, in Ohio right now, if you're single and gay you can adopt, but not jointly. And I talked to two men who wanted to adopt, they've been together now for 25 years. They went to Oregon, where, which does allow couples, gay couples to adopt. They wanted to adopt this boy together because they figure they're going to raise him jointly, they wanted to adopt him jointly. But if Ohio changed the law that wouldn't be possible. Right now, there are, Mississippi, for instance, bans gay couples from adopting, but if you are single you can adopt. And Utah, interestingly enough, prohibits all unmarried couples whether they're gay or straight from adopting.

NEARY: Well, I was about to ask you that. In the cases where a single person is allowed to adopt, is it known, is it stated whether they're gay or not? Or is it the case that, perhaps in some cases, people just don't say, one way or another?

Ms. STONE: Well, I', neither, there are people who are more expert at this than myself, but when you go to adopt a child, there's an exhaustive, you know, study of your life and your lifestyle. What you do and who you see, and all that. So, I think it's kind of hard to, you know, to hide something like that.

NEARY: So, in other words, in the states where single gay people are allowed to adopt, it's, generally speaking, something that's known during the adoption process.

Ms. STONE: Right. But you know, again, it's very fluid. For instance, in Georgia, I was talking to someone down there that it's really up to a judge's discretion. And there are some judges who are more open to allowing this and some that aren't. And so people almost go judge shopping when they're thinking about adopting, because they know who is more open to it and who is not.

NEARY: And as I understand, Florida has the strictest laws against gay adoptions, is that correct?

Ms. STONE: Florida has, since 1977, has banned all gays and lesbians from adopting. However, they do allow them to be foster parents. And that's another thing, these, the things that are being talked about now. It's not just about adoptions. It's about foster parenting, as well.

NEARY: So if you're gay, you would not be able to be a foster parent either.

Ms. STONE: Right. In Florida, you can today.

NEARY: Mm-hmm. But in some of these other state that are considering...

Ms. STONE: Some of them are talking about banning adoption and foster care.

NEARY: All right. Joining us now is Charmaine Yoest. She is the vice president of External Relations at the Family Research Council. She's also here with us in the Studio 3A. Thanks for being with us.

Ms. CHARMAINE YOEST (Vice President of External Relations, Family Research Council): Good to be with you.

NEARY: The Family Research Council would support some of the measures that these states are considering, I presume. Why?

Ms. YOEST: We want to be really clear that what we're focused on is, as Andrea mentioned earlier, she was siding us as a group that was part of this movement to ban gay adoption. The truth of the matter is, when we read her article, we were very interested in this idea that there was more of a movement. We're really focused on talking about children being raised in the most optimal place for them, which is with a mother and a father. So, I think it's really important to stress and highlight a point that you made, Andrea, about the fact, the connection between gay adoption and single parenthood, because for us that's really the key issue, is that in so many instances, that's the really relevant point, is when you introduce a single parent into a situation with a child, when it is not the child's biological parent, you are essentially barring them from having either a mom or a dad, whichever one it is missing from that situation, and we've had two decades of social science research now that has really, from across the right and left continuum, that has emphasized the fact that it really is critical for a child to have both a mom and a dad.

NEARY: We're going to talk more about the research later, because I think that there's two different ways that you can talk about the research. It's used in different ways, and we are going to get to that, but I just want to clarify something you just said. Are you saying then that you are opposed to any single parents adopting children, the Family Research Council?

Ms. YOEST: I think it's really important to, probably not across the board, that, but the key point is that in law you have to focus on the vast majority of cases and it's important to establish that the best place for kids is with a mom and a dad, married parents.

NEARY: This is the obvious argument that always, I'm sure, comes at you, and I know, I'm sure you have an answer to, but you said best place is with mom and a dad. As we just heard, many of these kids are in foster homes, or don't have a mom or a dad, or in the case of international adoptions, they've been abandoned. That's not the best place it would seem.

Ms. YOEST: Sure. Exactly, and that's one reason that you have judges who, as Andrea said, you go through a pretty rigorous process, and so, I think when you're talking about exceptions, that's when you want to have a judge looking at the case. Your law needs to protect what is the best-case scenario, and as it relates to foster care, that's an issue that I've written on and have been very concerned about over the years. And I think its really important to underscore that an awful lot of these kids are trapped in a system that has systemic problems across the board. And I really want to underscore the fact that there are a lot of parents out there who are anxious to adopt children, married parents anxious to adopt children out of a foster care system, and that we need to be doing the best that we can to fix that system, of getting those kids out of the system and into an optimal parenting situation. Particularly for kids who have the problems that you just listed. Children in foster care are the ones who need, who are the most challenging children in terms of raising them, and that's when you need, you really do need a mom and a dad to address those problems.

NEARY: All right, we are talking about the rights of gays and lesbians to adopt children. Time for a short break right now. When we come back, we'll hear from the head of an adoption agency. We'll also be taking your calls. The number is 800-989-TALK. You can e-mail us at talk@npr.org. I'm Lynn Neary, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION, I'm Lynn Neary in Washington sitting in for Neal Conan. Some 16 states have measures in the pipeline that would ban or severely curtail the rights of gays and lesbians to adopt. Today we're talking about gay adoption. Our guests are Andrea Stone, congressional correspondent for US Today, and Charmaine Yoest, the vice president for External Relations at the Family Research Council. They're both here in Studio 3A and you're invited to join the discussion. Give us a call at 800- 989-8255, or send us an e-mail to talk@npr.org. We want to take a step back now for a moment and look at the mechanics of adopting a child if you're gay. Joining us now to walk us through that process is Linda Hageman. She is executive director of the Cradle's Adoption Services and she is on the phone from her office in Evanston, Illinois. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. LINDA HAGEMAN (Executive Director, Cradle's Adoption Services): Thank you.

NEARY: We were talking earlier about the fact that some states allow single parents to adopt, and I was questioning whether those states know whether or not the single parents are gay. How does it come to light in the adoption process, and does it always come to light?

Ms. HAGEMAN: It typically does, at least when families work with The Cradle, it does come out in that we ask about their relationship and if we have a single parent and another adult in the home, typically, because we are an agency that works with gay and lesbian families, they typically are pretty open and up front with us about that.

NEARY: Yeah. There is a home study, which people that don't know that much about adoption may not know very much about, so may you can explain it to us.

Ms. HAGEMAN: That's the process where we get to know the family, the members of the family, and understand about the type of child they're interested in adopting. We also learn about their backgrounds and their relationship and ask questions around their readiness to adopt and their preparation for adoption, and we educate them through that process.

NEARY: How frequently are people turned down after the home study, for instance, and would their sexual identity be part of the reason for being turned down?

HAGEMAN: At the Cradle, it would not be part of the reason for turning them down. It does happen from time to time that we might feel that the family needs a bit more preparation around their readiness to adopt and seeing how adoption is different than parenting a child biologically. But we would not turn a family down on the basis of their relationship in terms of whether they were same gender couple or a heterosexual couple.

NEARY: Now, your agency you said, does deal with gay and lesbian couples, but do you have any idea of the numbers on this, the percentage of adoptions now that are by same-sex couples?

Ms. HAGEMAN: Overall, nationally, I don't know those numbers. I can tell you that at our agency it's about 10 percent of all of our domestic adoptions.

NEARY: Now, when we're talking about, what are your concerns about how this adoption may be affected by some of the measures or proposals that are out there now?

Ms. HAGEMAN: I think that what we're most concerned about is that there are good homes for children, and we've seen both from the research that we're aware of, and some of the positions that the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken, and other organizations, American Psychological Association and so forth, that's done quite a bit of literature review on this, is that there is a growing body of literature that demonstrates children growing up with one or two gay or lesbian parents do quite well emotionally, cognitively, socially, as well as children whose parents are heterosexual. So, on the basis of that, and knowing that families are needed for children, we feel that it is a good option for a child.

NEARY: Let me come back to the mechanics of this again, and that is, would international adoptions be affected by these kids of bans as to your knowledge?

Ms. HAGEMAN: It is affected in that there are no countries of which were aware that will accept a gay or lesbian parent. So, at the Cradle, we steer people away from international adoption and towards domestic adoption.

NEARY: And there are different kinds of adoptions now. There are also open adoptions, which would be that the woman who was giving up the child for adoption would know the family that the child was being adopted into. Do you use open adoptions at your agency?

Ms. HAGEMAN: We do, and birth parents are choosing adoptive gay and lesbian adoptive parents. In fact, they tend to choose them at the same rate or even more quickly then some of our heterosexual parents. So it, we did not expect that to happen when we first began working with gay and lesbian families, but in fact, it's an interesting phenomenon that they are being selected.

NEARY: All right, thanks so much for joining us, Linda.

Ms. HAGEMAN: You're welcome.

NEARY: Linda Hageman is the executive director of The Cradle's Adoption Services and she joined us by phone from her office in Evanston, Illinois. And we're going to take a call now from Loretta and she is in Missouri, I believe. Have we got Loretta on the line? I don't think so. Allison, I'm having a little trouble with my lines. I wanted to ask you, I wanted to turn to you, and we just heard Linda say that there is, you were saying earlier the research says that it's not good for children, on the other hand, the American Academy of Pediatricians, the American Psychological Association, these are some of the organizations who are saying that the studies show that having gay parents does not negatively effect the psychosocial development of children. So, what is your response to that?

Ms. YOEST: Well, I don't want to bore everyone to death with battling studies, but I will tell you this, is that when you look at the studies that present rosy scenarios for children who've been raised in gay homes, which you tend to find is really, really serious fatal flaws in the methodological approach. One of the things is just a common sense thing when you think about it, is there hasn't been enough gay adoption to have a large enough pool to have rigorous statistical studies done. Most of them, when you look at them, they have very small sample sizes, six kids, nine kids, not longitudinal, not random, all these things that as Social Scientists we look for to give you real statistical validity in a study. So, I think there's real problems with the studies that you cite, and frankly, there was a recent study published in 2001 in the American Sociological Review by two researchers, one of them Judith Stacey(ph), both of the researchers in the article stating that they are supportive of gay rights and yet, their own review of the research, they found it to be very flawed. So...

NEARY: We have a guest in the Studio I'm going to bring in a moment who I think has a different point of view on that.

Ms. YOEST: Sure.

NEARY: But first, I do want to get a call in here. I believe that the lines are working now. Let me go to Loretta, I believe she's in Missouri. Loretta?

LORETTA (Caller): Yes.

NEARY: Hi, go ahead.

LORETTA: I was calling because me and my sister, we both had experience in the foster care system. I'm 24 and she's 20 and one thing that worries me is cause right now we don't have parents and it is very hard to live in this world without parents. And it bothers me that, I would rather have gay or lesbian parents then no parents at all. And at some, I feel like the people making the decisions are the people who probably have had parents and have no idea what it's like to live in this world without parents. And I just wish that there's more, of, maybe like more of us who could make that decision, versus the people who've lived the life where they have the perfect family, or, you know, the mom and dad to help them out and support them. Because what I'm worried about is that less children are going to have people to turn to, like us. I mean, if we have to borrow money, all we have is each other, and it's very hard. It's just so hard. My concern is for all the other children out there like us who end up homeless because they were never adopted, it's just, and, it's not just us, at first I always thought that we were the only ones, but there is a lot of children who are in the same situation as us, and that really concerns me.

Ms. YOEST: Can I just reply real quickly...

NEARY: This is Charmaine Yoest...

Ms. YOEST: Thank you, I just, that breaks my heart and that's one of the reasons that I have been written in and been very interested in Foster Care Reform, because what she's talking about is a system that has failed her and failed her sister, and that's just wrong, and we really as a society have to do better. But let me also underscore that only two percent of our population do classify themselves as homosexual, so in looking at this as a solution to the foster care problem is a red herring. I believe that there are parents out there and we need to fix this system and get the children and parents hooked up together.

NEARY: Loretta, I don't know if you want to respond to that.

LORETTA: Yes, actually what I would like to say that even though it is only the two percent, that could be two percent that could be used. That could be maybe, it would be near my sister, that might get one of that, a little bit of that two percent that, maybe I could have a parent right now, and maybe I'm looking at it in the broad view, but its just I would really this to get the word out that, that two percent can still make a huge difference.

NEARY: All right, Loretta, thanks so much for your call. And also, just before we turn to Rob Woronoff, who is sitting with us here. I, one more thing I want to bring up, and maybe Rob can get in this discussion too, but talking about reforming the foster care system, I have to say, that is a system that we do all know, and I'm not going to get into that, I don't think that is the discussion here today. But it is going to take a whole, long, long, long time, I would say the lifetime and more of at least one child. So, that could be one child that spends an entire lifetime in the foster care system, while we're talking about reforming it.

Ms. YOEST: Well, I'm not quite as pessimistic at making change.

NEARY: Okay. Let's bring Rob Woronoff in. Those who work in children's advocacy groups are concerned about how some of this legislation would affect children moving out of foster care. Rob Woronoff is program director at the Children's Welfare League of America, and he is also with us here in Studio 3A. Thanks so much for being with us.

NEARY: Let's address some of these issues that we've already heard brought up, Rob, particularly the question of children in foster care, reminding everybody, and we're going to get back to it, that these bans are not just on kids in foster care, but these would ban adoptions of any children, including internationally. But let's talk specifically now about some of these issues of kids in foster care, since it was just raised by that very eloquent phone call.

Mr. ROB WORONOFF (Program Director, Children's Welfare League of America): Mm-hmm. You know, this is a controversy that doesn't really exist. This is a new issue. As Andrea said, it's really kind of growing out of the anti-gay marriage movement. But it's a very different issue from marriage. This really is a child welfare issue, placing children in homes, finding permanent, loving homes for children is a very difficult task that all states face. And so to kind of froth it up as a kind of political controversy doesn't really do justice to the children at all. I think maybe what the organizations that support these bans didn't really anticipate is the unity of the opposition, because that unity really exists. The Child Welfare League of America is the country's largest and oldest membership- based child advocacy organization. We have taken very strong stances on this. We do not do that without a substantial body of social science research. The research really is very, very clear that there are no substantive differences between children who are raised by gay and lesbian, either single or couples, or heterosexual parents...

NEARY: Let me press on a point that Charmaine raised that I think is a valid one, which is that it's a relatively new phenomenon, a gay adoption, and probably not that many. So how strong are those...

Mr. WORONOFF: No, it's not new at all. We've been doing research for over 30 years on this, and that's just when the research happened. There are currently hundreds of thousands of children, as Andrea said, being raised in America, who have always been raised by gay and lesbian parents. So, we have wonderful outcome data on them. This is not a new issue at all. And I really have to kind of defend Stacy, and, but I really want to say it. I have it right in front of me, if I can read this for one quick second. Studies using diverse samples and methodologies in the last decade have persuasively demonstrated that there are no systematic differences between gay or lesbian or non-gay or lesbian children, of those people, I'm sorry, in emotional health, parenting skills, attitudes towards parenting. That's what they said in 2001. I keep hearing that research misrepresented, but they are very clear that there are no differences in the outcomes of these children.

Ms. YOEST: You're pulling out some selective quotes there and not really giving the full breadth, as you know Rob...

Mr. WORONOFF: I would say that the organizations that promulgate these studies, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, these organizations don't put data on their websites and don't publish them in their journals lightly. A lot of the research that is quoted kind of on the other side has been conducted by a researcher, Paul Cameron, who was actually expelled from the American Psychological Association for misrepresenting data. So, we do have a tremendous amount of research...

NEARY: I just need to remind our listeners that you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Ms. YOEST: You want me to go ahead? I'm sorry, I thought you were going to a break. Again, I don't know that we want to get into doing data here, Rob, because we'll go back and forth about what it is that Stacy actually says in that piece, which I also actually happen to have with me. But I think you're ignoring some really important data, for instance, the higher break up rate of homosexual partnerships and how that also affects children...

Mr. WORONOFF: With a 50% divorce rate? I'm not sure that we want to have that discussion.

Ms. YOEST: Well, no. But the homosexual break up rate is higher than the divorce rate.

Mr. WORONOFF: No, we don't know that.

Ms. YOEST: Yes, absolutely we do.

NEARY: Let's see if we can get a call in here now. Joe, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

JOE (Caller): Good afternoon. I just have two quick points. Number one is, I think that in states like where I live, in Minnesota, where gays can adopt, and I believe that's the right thing to do, states like Florida, or Georgia, or other states, will have to have full faith in credit. They will have to respect Minnesota people who move to another state who have already adopted a child, number one.

Number two isI think by denying homosexuals the right to adopt children violates equal protection. There are people being discriminated against because of their gender, exuse me, their sexual identity, and find that to be a violation of equal protection under Amendment Five of the Constitution.

Ms. YOEST: I think that's a really interesting argument because it reflects for me a really troubling trend in our society s a whole, which is to immediately start talking about the rights of the parents, because I think when you start talking about adoption, you have to stay focused on the needs of the children. And obviously, Rob and I disagree about that, but I think that he and I do agree on this point though, that it does need to be the needs of the children that you talk about...

Mr. WORONOFF: Absolutely...

Ms. YOEST: ...And we can't go down this route of saying that people have a right to be a parent.

NEARY: We'll get back to the needs of the children, but Andrea Stone, you wanted to...

Ms. STONE: I think it's interesting because there are a lot of conservatives who agree with Rob about that this is an issue about children and not about gays. I spoke to the speaker of the Ohio House, John Husted, who is a Republican, a conservative Republican, and who happened to have been adopted himself as a child, and he was very much in favor of banning same-sex marriage in 2004. He voted for legislation to that effect in Ohio. But he said, when it comes to this issue, this is about children, it's a child welfare issue. It's not about gays. And this is a very conservative politician. And I think that you may find other conservatives feeling that way.

There was also some polling done by a Democratic pollster, and it was done for the human rights campaign, which is a gay rights organization. But they did polling in Missouri and in Ohio, and they asked about whether people would want a constitutional amendment to ban adoptions by gays and lesbians, and 58% of Missouri voters and 62% in Ohio said that would vote against it. So, I don't think, this is a lot more complicated than some of the other issues like gay marriage or even abortion.

NEARY: We are going to continue this discussion when we come back from a break. We are talking about gay adoption. If you'd like to join the discussion, the number is 800-989-8255. My guests are Andrea Stone, congressional correspondent for USA Today, Charmaine Yoest, vice president for External Affairs at the Family Research Council, and Rob Woronoff, program director at the Children's Welfare League of America. I'm Lynn Neary. This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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NEARY: Right now we are wrapping up our conversation on gay adoption. Our guests are Andrea Stone, Congressional Correspondent for USA Today, Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council, and Rob Woronoff, program director at the Child Welfare League of America. If you want to join the conversation, give us a call at 800-989-8255. We were talking about research, the research on this, right before the break. Very clear differences of opinion here in Studio 3A on that, and we are not going to resolve it today. But Rob you did have one more point you wanted to make on that?

Mr. WORONOFF: Yeah. Thanks, Lynn. I want to put out to the listeners that they don't have the studies in front of them, and Charmaine and I could probably sit here for hours and cite different studies. I think what I would like to put out is that it really is kind of an issue of faith and whom to believe and have faith in. And these national organizations, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, National Foster Parent Association, North American Council on Adoptable Children, all of the national child welfare and child health organizations oppose these bans because we know they're bad for children. We don't have political agendas. We have only one agenda, and that is to get children into safe and loving homes.

NEARY: And I have to follow up on that Charmaine, because I really do have to follow up on this idea that it's what is best for the child, because that's where there is something of a disconnect, I think, for many, many people. It is almost impossible to comprehend how you can be talking about the welfare of a child and say it is better for them to be in a foster care system. It is better for them to be an abandoned child in a foreign country than to be in a loving home. That's where the disconnect is.

Ms. YOEST: I'm glad you followed up on that, because if that's what you think my position is, then I've misspoken. Really, we really would not want to see any child without a home. What we see is sometimes social workers going into a situation and taking a child who was destined for a two-parent home and deciding for politically-driven reasons to put them in a gay parenting adoption situation. I believe that the foster care system is tragically broken and that there are barriers to putting kids into two- parent homes.

NEARY: But Again, we're not just talking about foster care. I mean, we are talking about the whole...

Ms. YOEST: Here is what I would say to your listeners. I would disagree with Rob. I don't believe it's a matter of faith. I believe that there is research out there that shows very clearly that kids need a mom and a dad. And more importantly than that, it's matter of commons sense. All you need to do is close your eyes and try to imagine your own life without your mom or your dad and...

NEARY: Or without any mom or dad.

Ms. YOEST: Well, you just said, it's not just a matter of foster care. And our legal system has to be based on what is best for the vast majority of children. And so you have to establish a system in law that says the best place for children to be raised is in a married, two-parent home. And then in situations, I do have a friend, a single parent who adopted overseas, so, I think there are situations where that can be healthy. But judges are entitled to go in and look at each individual situation where there are exceptions to the rule and make a decision.

NEARY: All right. We are going to take a call now from Steve, and he's calling from Savannah, Georgia. Steve, you on the line?

STEVE (Caller): Yes.

NEARY: Go ahead.

STEVE: I adopted a child as a gay man just over a year ago. At the time it was my foster child. Was given up by his biological parents at the age of eight, because they couldn't deal with him. They didn't have the parenting skills, they didn't know how to do it, and so he went into foster care. And in the three and a half years he was in foster care, he had about 14 different foster families. I think that's amazing that the system does that to children.

Ms. YOEST: And I agree.

NEARY: How is he doing now?

STEVE: He is a fabulous child. When he first moved into my house, he was in academically the sixth grade, at school, I should say in the sixty grade, but he was functioning basically on the third grade level. I put him in a private school just over a year ago, and he was functioning on the fourth grade level academically, but in eighth grade. And now he's academically an eighth grade in just over a year, because he has stability, he has a loving dad, he knows I will always be there for them, for him, and he knows how much I love him. And it's about the children, it's not about sexuality. My son doesn't care that I'm gay.

NEARY: All right, Steve. Thank you so much for your call.

Ms. STONE: Yeah, I think it's interesting, this caller, just today there was news in Boston, Massachusetts. There was a controversy involving there Roman Catholic bishops there and Catholic charities. And today seven members of the Catholic charities board resigned to protest the bishops who won an exemption for their social agencies from the law that requires them to place some adoptive children in gay households. They want an exemption from the anti-discrimination laws. And this is happening right now and it is the Vatican position that opposes adoption by same-sex couples. So I think we're going to be seeing this more and more around the country.

NEARY: I'm wondering if you do see this as a tougher political battle than the gay marriage one, that it's going to be a little bit harder for your position.

Ms. YOEST: Well, again, I want to underscore that I don't see the great movement that Andrea stressed because, and I think it's important to say that it is challenging to articulate very clearly that when you're talking about an individual like our caller who called in, there's no way I'm going to criticize what he's doing, this is, you know, good for him for loving on that boy. But as a matter of public policy we have to establish in our law what is best for kids, and it's a mom and a dad.

Mr. WORONOFF: And that's why all of the organizations I keep talking about do take a very strong stance that what's best for children is a loving home.

NEARY: All right. Let's see if we can get another caller in here. Bob in Jacksonville, Florida.

BOB (Caller): I think I'm referring to the speaker who's in the Family Resource Counsel in regards to the best place is a married two parent home. My comment is, the reality is a lot of people know who are listening, that the married two parent homes aren't available. It's backed up by the number of kids who are lingering in foster care, and as the one caller, I think her name was Laurda, who eloquently stated that she maxed out at the legal age in foster care, she and her sister were basically left homeless and on their own.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for calling in Bob. I'm going to try to get another call in here. Let's go to Jeff and he's in St. Louis, Missouri.

JEFF (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

NEARY: Sure, go ahead.

JEFF: I'm a pediatrician, and an adoptive parent, and my son is adopted from overseas, and would've died in the situation he was in, had my wife and I not adopted him. I'm also a medical researcher, and just in commenting on the two are giving the dueling data, which is difficult, but, you know, one other thing you really didn't talk about, rather than comparing data from straight, children in straight adoptive homes and children in gay adoptive homes, you also have to take into account the other comparison, which other people commented on, but which no one's brought the data up, which is comparing being adopted into any home, gay home, compared to not being adopted. And you know now there is a lot of data there on that particular comparison, but the data on not being adopted ,other than just the anecdotes of my son or the other callers, the anecdotes on, or the data on not being adopted is awful. And you know, there's just so many people, who are just so many people who will love children and adopt them, and to prevent people who are very committed to providing a loving home from doing so, is a shame. And if that happens, there are kids at the end of the line who are never going to get adopted.

NEARY: All right, Jeff. Thank you so much for your call. And just to wrap this up, Andrea Stone, where does this go for now? You, I don't know it's a movement that's going on out there, you seem to identify a movement. How strong is this? And where does this go politically?

Ms. STONE: I think it's a very nascent movement, I think it's very young, and it may take several years to play out, just the way gay marriage issue did. You know, in Oregon people were talking about banning gay marriage way back in the early '90s and it didn't happen til 2004. So, I think this is going to, I think we're hear more about it, but it's still kind of a young thing. Again this is happening in individual states. It's not something here in Washington are really concentrating on.

NEARY: All right. Well, thanks so much for all of you for being with us. Andrea Stone is Congressional correspondent for USA Today , Charmaine Yoest is Vice President for External Relations at the Family Research Counsel, and Rob Woronoff, Program Director at the Child Welfare League of America.

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