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Adoption Laws: State by State

Each state has its own laws governing adoption by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and same-sex couples — and they vary widely.

An individual adoption involves an unmarried person adopting a child who has been put up for adoption by the child’s biological parent(s) or is in the custody of the state. Every state allows individual, unmarried adults to petition to adopt a child. Presumably, this includes GLBT individuals. The only state that explicitly prohibits unmarried gay, lesbian and bisexual people from adopting is Florida.

A joint adoption involves an unmarried couple adopting a child who has been put up for adoption by the child’s biological parent(s) or is in the custody of the state. Many states allow a husband and wife to jointly petition to adopt a child. In these states it is unclear whether a same-sex couple would be permitted to file a joint petition to adopt. Same-sex couples, however, should check with the state adoption agencies to make sure. Some states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia, allow same-sex couples to jointly petition to adopt.

In several states, a person can petition to adopt the child of his or her partner or a child of the relationship. These are usually called second-parent or stepparent adoptions.

In all adoptions, it is ultimately the decision of the judge whether to grant the adoption petition.

Learn about adoption laws in your state.

The determination of parenting rights is always made on a case-by-case basis. If you are facing a parenting contest or are considering becoming a parent, you should consult with a lawyer licensed in your state and familiar with GLBT family law.