Gay Adoption & Foster Care Laws in California
July 7, 2019
In California, gay couples and individuals are legally treated virtually the same as straight couples and individuals when it comes to foster care and LGBT adoption. However, this was not always the case. California has been a national leader in creating legislation for LGBT equality. In this post, we’ll look at a few of the progressive laws that have supported LGBT families.
Any inquiry into California adoption laws should start with the California family code, where most of the basics are outlined. For example, this code states that those who may be adopted include “any unmarried minor child at least 10 years younger than their prospective adoptive parent or parents; any married minor or adult.”
One characteristic of California law that makes our state such an inclusive one regarding adoption, is the explicit prohibition of LGBT discrimination. Today’s anti-discrimination laws have evolved from the 1959 Unruh Civil Rights Act, which still stands. This law states that “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”
While this language has been updated periodically, it continues to be a remarkably progressive piece of legislation. When it comes to adoption, it means that no adoption agency may discriminate against anyone based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. This is true even for religious-based adoption organizations.
More recently, other laws have supported equality in LGBT adoption and foster care.
In 2003, the Foster Care Non-Discrimination Act put protections in place for both foster children and foster parents of various gender identities. Once again, California served as a national leader: “This law is the first of its kind in the United States to explicitly include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and adults involved with the foster care system.”
Support for transgender and genderqueer folks was again bolstered in 2011, with California’s Gender Non-Discrimination Act. One forward-thinking aspect to this law was the clarification that religious organizations could not discriminate in any way during any activity that was not strictly a religious duty. In other words, religious hospitals, businesses, and adoption agencies could not deny anyone their services, regardless of whether they are female, male, transgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, or another gender identity.
Support for gender diverse children in the foster care system was bolstered in 2015, with SB 731. This bill, as Equality California explains, requires “that caregivers tasked with placing California foster youth in homes must take a young person’s gender identity into consideration when making housing decisions. The bill is designed to ensure that all foster youth, including those who identify as transgender, are placed in appropriate homes where they feel safe and accepted.”
Just last year, the LGBTQ Family Law Modernization Act of 2018 was passed. This catch-all law worked to update language and further ensure that “LGBTQ parents and their children have access to the same protections as any other families.” While this does impact adoption, it also impacts legislation concerning items such as LGBT divorce, child support, child custody, and so on. This law will go into effect in 2020.
Another progressive 2018 bill was the “Gender Health in Foster Care” bill, which would ensure that the specific medical needs of transgender and genderqueer foster youth were taken into account. Specifically, it requires that “child welfare agencies must ensure access to clinicians who provide gender-affirming treatment consistent with established standards of care.”
Why such a strong focus on gender diverse youth in foster care and adoption? First, we know from studies by the Human Rights Campaign and other organizations that LGBT youth, particularly transgender and genderqueer youth, are more likely to face homelessness and unsafe home situations. Therefore, it’s critical that they have access to foster care and adoption services. Secondly, as we described in a previous post, the “Census Bureau reports that nationally, “same-sex couples are […] at least 4 times more likely to adopt.” The same report also notes that LGBT families are “six times more likely to foster children.” Therefore, California adoption services should be designed to make that possible.
We are proud to live in a state that is a national leader in removing bias and discrimination from foster and adoption care services. Our team of family law attorneys is experienced in working with LGBT families who are looking to adopt. If you’re considering growing your family, call us for a free consultation to see if we’re the right fit for you and your family.
Image by Irina Murza