The rows of wooden benches were filled with seven families for adoption day in Baltimore City Circuit Court last month.Most wouldn't be surprised to hear of different states treating gay couples differently for purposes of adoption, but within one state?! Unfortunately, that's fairly common as well. That lack of certainty of legal treatment, even within the same state, is a pretty powerful argument for the proposed federal statute, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, to end discrimination against LGBT parents.
A pair of gay men seeking to adopt a baby. Three lesbian couples, two with twins. Two single moms with two kids between them.
And one heterosexual couple — the only nuclear family with a mother and father — who had filed to adopt a young boy.
Most adoption days in Baltimore look like this. The city is the favored jurisdiction among Maryland's 24 circuit courts for same-sex adoption petitioners because of a legal precedent written 15 years ago and because of local procedures that allow all Maryland residents — regardless of which county they call home — to file adoption paperwork in the city.
Maryland's adoption statute is silent on same-sex parents, leaving the matter to the discretion of each circuit judge. Baltimore, according to adoption lawyers, appears to be the only jurisdiction where judges have agreed to treat homosexual couples the same way they treat straight couples. Other jurisdictions, attorneys say, are a gamble for would-be parents who are gay.
So even as more circuit courts become willing to grant adoptions to same-sex couples — at least seven other counties have done so — lawyers who specialize in representing gay families nearly always tell their clients to file in Baltimore, steering them away from their home counties if judges there are known to turn down adoption applications or if the judicial waters are untested.
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