Tenth anniversary of Pennsylvania same-sex parent adoption

A recent multi-family picnic celebrated the anniversary of a victory granting same-sex couples the right to adopt each other’s children in Pennsylvania. The landmark lawsuit marked a five-year battle that went all the way to the state Supreme Court. By the end of this hard-fought case, same-sex parent adoption went from a dream to a reality.

Prior to that 2002 legal victory, children of same-sex couples were not always granted the same legal protections of their counterparts who had opposite-sex couples parenting them. They would not have the same inheritance rights, health insurance coverage from a second parent’s employer, or the right to child support from a second parent should the couple split up. On the flip side, second parents also had no rights to make legal decisions for their minor children.

At that point, same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in any state, so second-parent adoptions were decided strictly on a county-by-county basis. This meant that 14 counties in Pennsylvania chose to recognize same-sex parent adoption, while the others did not. Two same-sex couples who believed their case was strong enough that they appealed first to Superior Court-where they lost-and then to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court-where they won after a tough five-year battle for equal protection under the law.

The couples argued that their families existed no matter what the Supreme Court decided: the predominant issue at hand was whether their children would be granted the same legal rights as other children. Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics seemed to support the couples’ arguments, indicating that same-sex parenting leads to children who are equally well-adjusted on a psychological and social level as children of heterosexual couples. Now, Pennsylvania same-sex parent adoption is just one more right enjoyed by the state’s citizens. A right that is enjoyed, but in all likelihood one that is not taken for granted.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Just another picnic … but not really,” Sally Kalson, Sept. 10, 2012