Nevertheless, LGBT parenting in general, and adoption by LGBT couples in particular, are issues of major political controversy in many Western countries, often seen as part of a "culture war" between conservatives and social liberals.
Common methods of LGBT parenting are adoption, donor insemination, foster parenting, and surrogacy, as well as parenting by a mother or father who was previously in a heterosexual relationship.
As of 2005, an estimated 270,313 children in the United States live in households headed by same-sex couples.
The American Psychological Association states in its Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children (adopted July 2004):
there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children"; and "research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish."
Similarly, Children's Development of Social Competence Across Family Types, a major report prepared by the Department of Justice (Canada) in July 2006 but not released by the government until forced to do so by a request under the Access to Information Act in May 2007, reaches this conclusion:
The strongest conclusion that can be drawn from the empirical literature is that the vast majority of studies show that children living with two mothers and children living with a mother and father have the same levels of social competence. A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in traditional nuclear families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences. The very limited body of research on children with two gay fathers supports this same conclusion.
In January 2008, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that homosexual people have the right to adopt a child.
Sixty percent of U.S. adoption agencies accept applications from same-sex couples, and forty percent of U.S. agencies have already placed children in homes with gay or lesbian parents.
California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia allow second-parent adoption statewide by statute or court decision. Some courts in many other states have granted second-parent adoptions to the same-sex partners of biological or adoptive parents. They include: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
Gay and lesbian individuals can individually adopt as single people in almost every state. Florida is the only state that explicitly prohibits adoption by gay and lesbian individuals as well as by same-sex couples. Utah forbids adoption by any person cohabitating in a nonmarital relationship. Mississippi prohibits same-sex couples from adopting jointly.
|State||LGBT individual may petition to adopt||Same-sex couple may jointly petition||Same-sex partner may petition to adopt partner’s child|
|Alabama||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Alaska||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Arizona||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Arkansas||Unclear||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Delaware||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|District of Columbia.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Georgia||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Indiana||Yes||Yes||In some jurisdictions|
|Iowa||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Kansas||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Kentucky||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Louisiana||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Maine||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Maryland||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Michigan||Yes||No||No explicit prohibition|
|Minnesota||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Montana||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Nebraska||Unclear||No explicit prohibition||No|
|Nevada||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|New Hampshire||Yes||In some jurisdictions||In some jurisdictions|
|New Mexico||Yes||Unclear||In some jurisdictions|
|North Dakota||Unclear||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Ohio||Unclear||Unclear||In some jurisdictions|
|Oregon||Yes||Yes||In some jurisdictions|
|Rhode Island||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Tennessee||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Texas||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|Virginia||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Washington||Yes||No explicit prohibition||In some jurisdictions|
|West Virginia||Yes||No explicit prohibition||Unclear|
|Wisconsin||Yes||No explicit prohibition||No|
As adoptions are mostly handled by local courts in the United States, some judges and clerks accept or deny petitions to adopt on criteria that vary from other judges and clerks in the same state.
A study by UCLA Law School's Williams Institute noted that gays and lesbians more frequently adopt older, disabled, or HIV+ children often not considered by heterosexual couples. The study claims that barring adoption by qualified gays and lesbians could cost the U.S. between $87 million and $130 million per year.
For example, the Christian right Family Research Council claims that a survey by them shows that there is a correlation between homosexuality and child sexual abuse committed by men, and that caution over the suitability of gay parents, in general, is justified.
Every study on sexual abuse, by diverse organizations that range from the Connecticut Correctional Institute to the Child Welfare League of America, reports that there is no connection between child abusers and sexual orientation.
Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union's report on parenting by same-sex couples contradicts the Family Research Council's conclusions, stating that the vast majority of peer-reviewed sociological studies indicate that children raised in same-sex households are "relatively normal." When comparing such children to the children of opposite-sex parents there tends to be no difference "on measures of popularity, social adjustment, gender role behavior, gender identity, intelligence, self-concept, emotional problems, interest in marriage and parenting, locus of control, moral development, independence, ego functions, object relations, or self esteem.
A study released in May 2007 by the Department of Justice (Canada), Children's Development of Social Competence Across Family Types, points out that "A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in 'traditional nuclear' families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences.
The American Psychological Association supports adoption and parenting by same-sex couples in its policy statement of July 28 and July 30, 2004. The American Medical Association has issued a similar position supporting same-sex adoption, and calling for its members to fight to reduce health disparities for children of same-sex parents.
Some opponents of adoption by same-sex couples argue that gays and lesbians are more prone to mental disorders than are straight persons, and that therefore same-sex adoption should not be permitted. They cite a literature review by Dr. George A. Rekers of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine:
Reporting the findings of 12-month prevalence, 36.8% of men having sex with men had a psychiatric disorder, compared to 28.2% of men having sex with women. And 55.5% of women having sex with women had a psychiatric disorder compared with 31.8% of women who have sex with men.
The Rekers paper argues from those statistics that same-sex couples are more likely to expose a child to negative influences and such children are more likely to suffer developmental problems, therefore households of married heterosexual couples provide the most stable environment for children and no same-sex couple should be permitted to adopt children.
Critics of this argument note that it is based on a generalization and does not necessarily apply to specific same-sex couples. Extensive evaluations of individual prospective parents are a standard prerequisite for adopting children, regardless of the prospective parents' gender and/or sexual orientation. The prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a general group therefore has little bearing on the fitness of individual prospective parents.
The Rekers findings does contradict the general findings of research on gay and lesbian parenting. As the American Psychological Association has stated,
First, homosexuality is not a psychological disorder (Conger, 1975). Although exposure to prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation may cause acute distress (Mays & Cochran, 2001; Meyer, 2003), there is no reliable evidence that homosexual orientation per se impairs psychological functioning. Second, beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation (Patterson, 2000, 2004a; Perrin, 2002). Lesbian and heterosexual women have not been found to differ markedly in their approaches to child rearing (Patterson, 2000; Tasker, 1999). Members of gay and lesbian couples with children have been found to divide the work involved in childcare evenly, and to be satisfied with their relationships with their partners (Patterson, 2000, 2004a). The results of some studies suggest that lesbian mothers' and gay fathers' parenting skills may be superior to those of matched heterosexual parents. There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armesto, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997). On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
Opponents of same-sex marriage also point to research which state the power and importance of the mother-child bond compared to children without a mother. David Blankenhorn argues that raising children in a same-sex marriage violates the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child that guarantees children the right to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world.
Some opponents of adoption by same-sex couples question whether same-sex households provide children with adequate gender roles. The underlying sentiment is that, without both male and female role models, children may develop in such a way that they are unable to fulfill traditional gender roles in future heterosexual relationships.
Studies have consistently shown that children raised by lesbian mothers behave, for the most part, within normal sex stereotypes. Researchers have observed slightly relaxed boundaries in sex-typed play (dolls versus trucks) and in gender-stereotyped career aspirations among such children.
Although "many lone-parent families are functioning well," there is some evidence that children raised in single parent households "are likely to be less socially competent" than those raised in two-parent households due to economic difficulties and lack of emotional support for the single parent by a partner or social support by adults outside the family. This generalization has been used by many groups to oppose adoption by same-sex couples.
The corresponding argument that same-sex parents are unsuitable hinges on the assumption that children of single parent households suffer due to a lack of gender role models, whereas the cause may instead be a lack of parental care and supervision associated with single parent households. It is therefore not clear that single parent studies in any way reflect adversely the quality of parenting provided by same-sex couples, which, as a 2006 report by the Department of Justice (Canada) states, is "independent of the sexual orientation of parents."
A related concern is whether or not children raised in same-sex households are more likely themselves to be homosexual as adults or experience gender confusion. Evidence from twin studies suggests that a mixture of biological and environmental factors affect sexual orientation, although there is currently no scientific consensus on what specific environmental factors contribute to sexual orientation. A number of peer-reviewed studies comparing children raised by two mothers and those raised by a mother and a father have not found any relation between same-sex parenting and a greater likelihood of identifying later in life as gay or lesbian.
In recent decades, a new possibility for LGBT parenting, same-sex procreation (where two women could have a daughter with equal genetic contributions from both women, or where two men could have a son or daughter with equal genetic contributions from both men), has become a possibility, through the creation of either female sperm or male eggs from the cells of adult women and men. With female sperm and male eggs, lesbian and gay couples wishing to become parents would not have to rely on a third party donor of sperm or egg.
The first significant development occurred in 1991, in a patent application filed in 1991 by U.Penn. scientists to fix male sperm by extracting some sperm, correcting a genetic defect in vitro, and injecting the sperm back into the male's testicles. While the vast majority of the patent application dealt with male sperm, one line suggested that the procedure would work with XX cells, i.e., cells from an adult woman to make female sperm.
In the two decades that followed, the idea of female sperm became more of a reality. In 1997, scientists partially confirmed such techniques by creating chicken female sperm in a similar manner. They did so by injecting blood stem cells from an adult female chicken into a male chicken's testicles. Some years later, other Japanese scientists created female offspring by combining the eggs of two adult mice, though using a procedure that would not be allowed for humans.
In 2008, a flurry of announcements revealed further developments with human same-sex reproduction, with a patent application filed by an American researcher specifically on methods for creating human female sperm using artificial or natural Y chromosomes and testicular transplantation. A UK-based group, in an interview, predicted they would be able to create human female sperm within five years. Another group at the Butantan Institute in Brazil is working on creating male eggs from embryonic stem cells, and if successful, from adult skin cells, though their current experiments are with mice. All of these developments and more are listed in Timelime of Research in Human Same-sex Procreation