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Joint adoptions by gays are put on even ground with heterosexual couples.

New Jersey has become the first state to set a policy allowing gay and unmarried couples to jointly adopt children under the same qualification standards as married couples. The policy, which came as part of an out-of-court settlement, was praised by gay rights advocates.

"There has been an unspoken ranking of preferences of who a child is placed with," said Michael Adams, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project in New York. "Gays and lesbians would never be turned to to adopt a child."

Most states let the courts decide what criteria is used to determine the best placement for a child, but New Jersey had a policy against joint adoptions of children in state custody by couples who were not married.

"As a result of this lawsuit, the state agreed to reverse itself and set a formal policy, across the board, that it would apply precisely the same standards for adoption to gay and lesbian couples and unmarried heterosexual couples as it does for married couples," Adams said.

"I can't name another state that has a formal adoption policy like New Jersey's," he added. "There are between 20 and 25 states where lesbians and gay men are routinely adopting children, but it tends to be an arbitrary decision. It's very dangerous when an adoption policy is arbitrary--when it's something that's not written down."

The policy change resulted after two gay men from New Jersey, Jon Holden and Michael Galluccio, were permitted by a judge to adopt their two-year-old foster child. A followup class-action lawsuit, brought on behalf of the men and a gay couples group known as Lambda Families of New Jersey, sought to broaden the decision by scrapping the state's original adoption policy. (Holden v. New Jersey Dep't of Human Servs., No. C-203-97 (N.J., Bergen County Super. Ct. Dec. 16, 1997).)

Opposition was expressed by religious rights groups, such as the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council. Kristin Hansen, a spokesperson for the latter group, denounced the settlement agreement as "a loss for children. This is bringing state government in to ... give its stamp of approval to these practices, and it seems to have government saying for the first time that a gay environment is a good one to grow up in." (Ronald Smothers, New Jersey Accord Allows Gay Couples to Adopt Jointly, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 18, 1997, at A25).

Adams said he viewed opponents of joint adoption by gay couples as members of a small but vocal minority. "It's hard to find a respected children's organization that is opposed to gay and lesbian parent adoptions. You don't see children's advocates opposing this."
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Author:Brienza, Julie
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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