LGBTQ+ Families and Adoption

"Adoption is the permanent legal transfer of all parental rights from one person or couple to another person or couple. Adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities as biological parents, and adopted children have all of the emotional, social, legal and kinship benefits of biological children." (Adoption Council of Ontario)[1]. LGBTQ+ adoption, is the same legal transfer of all parenting rights, however it is to a couple, or individual who identifies outside of heterosexuality and heteronormativity.


Adoption in LGBTQ+ families began after it was legal for an individual, in a same sex marriage, to adopt the biological or adopted child of their partner. However, at this time they were not allowed to adopt children together, as a couple[2]. More modernly, LGBTQ+ families adopt children for many reasons, beyond than just wanting a family. Firstly, gay, or non-binary couples are unable to bear their own children. Unlike lesbians, who can choose to have an In Vetro Fertilization (IVF), through sperm donations, many LGBTQ+ couples find that adoption is the only option[3]. In Vetro Fertilization is a process in which a zygote is fertilized externally, and then transferred into a woman's body, to then begin the gestational process[4]. Adoption is also chosen by LGBTQ+ families who have had failed attempts in either/all of surrogacy, IVF, and embryo adoption, which are all other alternative measures of staring families. This ties in with infertility, which is another driving force, encouraging LGBTQ+ families and heterosexual families to adopt children. Finally, for many LGBTQ+ couples, adoption is their preferred method of having children and starting a family[3].


North America

In the United States and Canada, laws vary drastically state-to-state (or province-to-province). More so in the US, it is hard to be protected under the law as an LGBTQ+ family who has, or is trying to, adopt[5]. In states such as Mississippi, adoption is granted to families "who serve in the best interest of the child". This means, the eligibility of a family to be able to adopt, is for the most part, contingent on the judge/state's view on the 'ideal family'. Often, as Mississippi is more of a conservative state, this results in LGBTQ+ families not being granted the rights to adopt, due to the homophobic preconceived notions of judges assigned to adoption cases. Vague laws, such as these provide no protection or rights for prospective and current LGBTQ+ parents [2]. These types of laws deprive children who are in need of safe homes of having a family, that would otherwise be a perfect fit for them.Some adoption laws can be extremely contradictory; in some states, such as Maryland and Massachusetts, adoption agencies are explicitly prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation. However in other states, like South Dakota, have laws that allow for religious exemptions for adoption agencies, allowing them to refuse to place children in circumstances that violate their religious beliefs. There are also numerous laws that can prevent LGBTQ+ families, from proceeding with anything from surrogacy to custody[5].


One of the biggest problems same sex couples, in Europe, feel is self-doubts and emotional conflicts stemming from intrusive hetero-normative assumptions about family. Studies show that same-sex couples were concerned whether their family structure could have a negative impact on the child's well-being, whether their child would face discrimination with peers, or if them, as same-sex parents, were depriving their children of either a mother or a father. There are also complications in the adoption process, specifically in Belgium, most adoption agencies have a 'gay' quota, in which the statistics are low, of same-sex couples having successful adoptions. Most adoption agencies in Belgium have an unofficial 20% quota of same-sex couples, and the latter 80% are heterosexual couples. Belgium also faces issues from the biological parent's sides, rooted in homophobia, where biological parents are less-likely to agree to the terms of a same-sex couple adoption[6].


Many studies try to show that LGBTQ+ families that adopt have negative effects on their children's mental, and overall, health. This argument is often used as grounds in cases, where an LGBTQ+ family is not allowed to adopt. However, studies prove that the sexual orientation of an adopted child's parents have very little to do with their upbringings and quality of life. Instead, the similarities lie within all adopted children's well beings, regardless of their parents' sexual orientations. It is much more likely of adoption, its self, to have impacts on a child's life, than if they were being raised by their biological parents[7].


  1. "What is Adoption?". Adoption Council of Ontario. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Appell, Annette R. (October 2008). "Lesbian and Gay Adoption". Adoption Quarterly. 4: 75–86 – via Taylor & Francis Online. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jennings, Sarah (August 2014). "Why Adoption? Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Adoptive Parents' Reproductive Experiences and Reasons for Adoption". Adoption Quarterly. 17: 205–226 – via Taylor & Francis Online. 
  4. "In Vitro Fertilization for Infertility". HealthLink BC. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harris, Elizabeth A. (June 20, 2017). "Same-Sex Parents Still Face Legal Complications". New York Times. 
  6. Messina, Roberta (March 2018). "Adoption by Lesbians and Gay Men in Europe: Challenges and Barriers on the Journey to Adoption". Adoption Quaterly. 21: 59–81 – via Taylor & Francis Online. 
  7. Averett, Paige (November 2009). "An Evaluation of Gay/Lesbian and Heterosexual Adoption". Adoption Quarterly. 12: 129–151 – via Taylor & Francis Online.