New Jersey Signed Adoption Expansions That Protect LGBTQ Families

Supermajority Education Fund

January 28, 2020

On January 15, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed S3528/A5396 into law, effectively streamlining the “confirmatory” adoption process for LGBTQ families. While non-biological parents in the state were previously recognized as parents on their child’s birth certificate, this recognition was not a declaration of official proof of parentage; A confirmation process was still necessary. This new legislation makes things less complicated for non-biological parents in these couples to seek adoption: All they have to do is seek a judgment of adoption from the court. 

Jon Oliveira, the director of communications and membership at Garden State Equality in New Jersey, told Supermajority News that the “confirmatory” adoption process was not easy. 

“Previously, parents had to go through an arduous and expensive process that required background checks, house visits, attorney fees, and a judicial hearing,” Oliveira said. “Under the new law, parents who were married or in a civil union when the child was conceived or born can simply submit a request for judgment from the court affirming the parentage.”

New Jersey’s adoption legislation is some of the more progressive in the U.S. California, Rhode Island, New York, California, and D.C. also prohibit discrimination based on sexual identity  in adoption processes. Maryland, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico prohibit discrimination on sexual identity and gender.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in states, including North and South Dakota, Michigan, Virginia, South Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama, where adoption agencies are permitted to refuse service to LGBTQ families. All these agencies have to say is that working with these families violates their religious beliefs, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Families are not necessarily protected at the federal level, either. In November 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Trump administration proposed a rule that would roll back the Obama administration’s 2016 discrimination regulation that protected people based on their gender and sexual orientation which, in turn, could apply to the adoption process. 

Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality, confirmed to The New York Times in November that this rollback means that any U.S. adoption or foster care agency that gets HHS funding is “now free to discriminate.”

The White House said in a statement that it disagreed with the Obama administration’s protection of minority families who want to adopt and foster. 

“The administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule that was proposed in the 12 o’clock hour of the last administration that jeopardizes the ability of faith-based providers to continue serving their communities,” the White House said in a statement in November, per the Times. “The federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith.”