Considering Gay Adoption in a Not-So-Gay-Friendly State

Gay Adoption in Oklahoma Hello again my little internetz friendz! It’s been a little while since I’ve checked in and provided status on where me and the Hubs are with spawning once more (it’s our attempt at propagating that nasty Gay Agenda long after our demise). While I’d love to take credit for the delay, the truth is that we’ve had an unwanted visitor in our house twice in the past sixty days (no, not that visitor – though sometimes I wonder about my hubby). Her name is Strep and she’s a menace to society. But everyone is finally on the mend, so on to more important things. As I discussed in my first post a little while back, my hubby and I are exploring our options to add another kiddo to our little family. Since we don’t own a set of ovaries or a uterus between the two of us (again, I sometimes wonder), this is a little more complicated than a Barry Manilow CD, a box of wine and 15 (I’m feeling really generous today) minutes in Heaven.

This time around, Jer and I are considering the following options:

  1. Adoption
  2. Traditional (US) Surrogacy
  3. Indian Surrogacy

Over the next few months, I’ll be talking about each option and where we are with our decision. This month, I thought I’d start with adoption.

Adoption Options: A Not So Appealing Buffet

We live in a little suburb in the northeast corner of Oklahoma. As you may well be aware, Oklahoma is not the most pro-gay state in our union. In fact, Oklahoma actually claims the title as the most conservative state in the US with every single county going Republican in the last presidential election (Oklahomans are far too stubborn to ever admit they’re in a losing fight). Don’t be jealous – I know you are. Aside from some annoying legal issues we have to deal with, we’ve been extremely blessed and have never been harassed or targeted for homophobic or intolerant actions. But those annoying legal issues I mentioned above become more prominent when you’re looking at adopting as a same-sex couple.

In Oklahoma, like many other states, two people of the same sex can not be on a birth certificate; you can only have one mother and one father on it. Because of this, you have to adopt as a single party, which means that the other parent, your spouse, is left almost completely out of the process. This poses a few problems. Emotionally, it takes a toll on the unrecognized parent. To feel as if you have no legal rights to your child is one of the worst feelings in the world. When you become a parent, everything in your life suddenly revolves around your kiddos and meeting their needs. To feel like you’re investing all of yourself in a child that isn’t legally yours is a feeling that creates anxiety, stress and depression.

Legally it is a complete nightmare. The parent who is left off of the birth certificate cannot make legal decisions on behalf of the child, such as enrolling them in school. They cannot consent to emergency medical care. They cannot consent to routine medical care either. In the eyes of the American legal system, the second parent does not exist. Which brings us to the real problem: custody. In the event that the custodial parent dies or is unable to care for the child, the other parent would have absolutely no rights to their child(ren). With the way that the legal system works in Oklahoma, my same-sex partner might as well be my roommate in the eyes of the court. Meaning that, unless the custodial parent’s next of kin willingly grant custody to the surviving parent, the children could be removed from the home without so much as visitation being granted. Also, in the event that the couple should split, the parent who isn’t listed on the birth certificate is not entitled to visitation, shared custody or anything of the sort. So, you could, in theory, spend 10 years raising a child with your partner, end your relationship and lose all contact with your child for good.

There’s also no protection for the custodial parent as far as financial assistance. Without the former partner being a recognized parent, there’s no way to ask for or enforce child support to help with the expenses of raising a family. So, in short, the laws regarding adoption are a bag of hurt in Oklahoma. That’s not to say that there aren’t legal alternatives though. If a same-sex couple decides to do a single party adoption to complete their family, they can take additional steps (once the adoption is complete) to protect the rights of both parents and the child. After the child has been legally adopted, a guardianship can be granted to the non-custodial parent, which gives them the ability to make legal and medical decisions for the minor child. In addition to the guardianship, a civil contract can be created between the parents to cover things like custody, visitation and child support in the event of a split. (As always, please consult an attorney for the specifics of your situation. This information is provided as an opinion only and should not be mistaken for, or used as, legal advice.)

The downside of going that route is that it adds additional expense on to what is already an expensive process. Drafting the legal documents after the adoption can easily cost several thousand dollars. According to Adoption.com, a domestic adoption can cost between $5,000 and $40,000 so pockets are already pretty empty after the adoption completes. Another hurdle for adopting in Oklahoma is the fact that, to a certain extent, it would require us to go back into the closet. While the Oklahoma courts would never publicly say that they refuse to grant adoptions to gay couples or individuals, when we began researching our options, we were told time and time again to do our best to keep our orientation out of the process. In fact, a reputable adoption attorney told us that if our orientation became a known factor to the social worker or judge, we would be rejected as adoptive parents and provided a completely different reason for the decision. So, in order to be considered for adoption in Oklahoma, we’d have to completely hide who we are, tap dance around our relationship and put our family and friends in a really awkward position where they had to watch what was said to the social worker. After coming out at 17, I have never gone back into the closet even momentarily. I don’t necessarily broadcast my orientation but I also don’t avoid it or make excuses about who I am. To be put into a situation where I feel like I’d have to lie about who I am, or deny my relationship with my husband felt too unethical to me. And it seemed extremely prejudiced that I’d have to.

Overall, the prospect of adopting in Oklahoma is really disappointing and frustrating. If we were able to handle the stress of the process, and essentially play the system, to complete the adoption, we’d then feel like we had given up our integrity and denied who we were to have a child. As a parent, I realize that actions define who you are and they also teach your children what’s right and what’s wrong. Although I’m the first to crack jokes and admit I’m human and make mistakes, I always try my best to be honest and treat others well. Jer and I have spent a lot of nights (and a few cases of boxed wine) discussing whether or not we want to take down the family pictures, to coach our family and friends on what to say and to go down the road of adoption knowing the ethical price we’d pay. In the end, I think that adoption would only be our choice as a last resort. We’re leaning toward another option, which we’ll discuss in the next few posts.

What Would Carrie Bradshaw Do?

In the mean time, I thought I’d lighten things up and share how a typical conversation about family goes in our house (this is the actual conversation; I stopped what I was doing and started typing as we spoke):

Me: Why don’t we sit down and go through some of this info on adoption and surrogacy?

Jer: Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City. Jer doesn’t bother with real names – he uses character names most of the time) just had twins via surrogates. Twins via surrogates are going to be so fashionable now. I bet they’ll be on the runway in Paris.

Me: They’re not stilettos – they’re children.

Jer: Oh, I know. But everything she does is such a big deal. Pretty soon models will be having nose jobs to get big, crooked noses. It’ll be called a nose unjob because they’re making it uglier.

Me: That’s pretty fascinating – and mildly insulting. How about we talk about what we want to do with OUR family. (At this point, Jer is watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey on TV and half listening to me.)

Jer: We should get leopard print luggage.

Me: Can you focus for 5 seconds?

Jer: Yes, sorry. Do you want a glass of wine?

The Bean (our son): CUP! CUP! (He gets excited to open the fridge door, so he’s encouraging his Daddy to drink more wine.)

Jer (as he’s getting wine): If we have another baby it’d be fun to get bunk beds eventually. I always wanted bunk beds growing up.

Me: I had them – I fell off the top bunk in my sleep. Not fun. But aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?

Jer: You’re right. We need to decide on a color scheme before we can pick out a bed.

Me: No, we need to decide on whether or not we want to have another baby and, if so, how it’s getting here. Do we want to adopt? Do we want to go the surrogate route?

Jer: I just said that Carrie Bradshaw used a surrogate. I thought we settled that?

Me: So now we’re planning our family based on Carrie Bradshaw?

Jer: Well, how else would we decide? What was your final answer on leopard print luggage?

At that, I was pretty much speechless. I got my glass of wine and resigned myself to an evening of Real Housewives of New Jersey and not making decisions.

Ryan lives in Tulsa, OK with his partner and son. He’ll be blogging about his journey here, but you can also find him at his personal blog, Pride in Life, where he blogs about design, family, and anything else that comes to mind.

10 Comments

  1. Josh says:

    Have you looked into adoption in another state? I’m not sure about Oklahoma but I’m pretty sure other states approve interstate joint adoptions by gay couples finalized elsewhere even if the couple’s state or residency doesn’t recognize it. My partner and I are pursuing an adoption in Illinois; we live in Ohio, which has sucky laws too.

    Reply
  2. Ryan says:

    Hey Josh – we actually have considered that as an option. The problem is, at least in Oklahoma, the home study and social worker would be based here regardless of where the adoption is finalized. That’s the whole issue for us.

    We’ve been told (by about 7-10 reputable and gay-friendly adoption attorneys) that in Oklahoma, and specifically our more rural county, the chances of adopting jointly or even doing a single party adoption would be nearly impossible if we’re open about our orientation. The discriminatory opinions aren’t just within the courts but also within the social and case workers. If we’re honest about our orientation, it will be a non-issue on paper but will be cause enough to disqualify us based on other BS criteria.

    Yes, we could try to fight that and push the system to change. But that would take a substantial toll on us both financially and emotionally, and we may come out of the other side with nothing to show for it. I’m not sure that we’re the couple to take that stand.

    Thank you for the feedback and comment though. And congrats on your family – and the new addition! :)

    Reply
  3. Josh says:

    Ryan – Gotcha–that makes sense.

    We were lucky enough to find a (relatively) gay-friendly agency only about an hour away to do our Ohio home study. They were willing to file one version of our home study with the state that, as required, lists only one of us as the adopting parent. For the Illinois agency, they created a second version of the home study with both of our names, which can apparently be used for the Illinois court. The lawyers I spoke with aren’t sure how it will play out, but they know other couples who have been able to do it (import a joint adoption).

    Thanks for the congrats–but no second baby yet. We’re still waiting for a second match after one that fell through last spring. I’m looking forward to reading more about what path you and your partner decide to pursue for your second.

    I guess we were lucky enough to find a gay-friendly agency.

    Reply
  4. Ryan says:

    That is awesome that you found such an understanding agency! In my research, it’s definitely different state-to-state.

    I am keeping my fingers crossed for your family – I know it’ll happen soon. I’m going to really enjoy being able to keep up with your journey as things progress.

    Reply
  5. E says:

    Have you considered setting up a trust in which you can set up a trust for your children with both of you as trustees? It isn’t the co-parenting ideal that you are looking for, but it does create a legal relationship not afforded to you otherwise.

    Reply
  6. Brandi Tubbs says:

    My partner Ashley and I are about to adopt my step sisters baby. She’s basically just signing it over to me, and we hope Ash can adopt at a later date, just to make the process go faster and easier. We live in Lawton. I’m finding it hard to find someone to help me with the adoption process seeing as I’m in a relationship with a woman, simply because we are in the bible belt. Do you have any suggestions?? Please feel free to email me with any suggestions or ideas!! I can use all the help I can get, we’re only 4 months away… brandi.tubbs@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Chris says:

      Ryan,
      I am the director of a Licensed home study agency in Oklahoma. I have conducted several adoptive home assessments for gay and lesbian couples. I just had a couple selected by the birthmother who were a lesbian couple. It is possible.

      Reply
  7. Crystal says:

    I liked your article. I also live in Oklahoma, formerly Tulsa, currently Oklahoma city. I am going to school to be a counselor and am hoping to specialize in fertility and adoption counseling. I ran across your story just trying to find out what kind of stresses and other emotional issues that parents face while trying to build their families. Your article is very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Nicola Wyndham says:

    If a child is adopted by a single gay man in the UK will he then be able to bring the child to his home town in Oklahoma and live there without any problems with the child

    Reply

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