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McCain assailed for opposing adoptions by gays

July 15, 2008 7:00:04 PM PDT
Advocates for gay and lesbian parents are denouncing Sen. John McCain, an adoptive father himself, for opposing adoptions by gays, which prompted his presidential campaign to clarify Tuesday that he does not seek a federal ban on the practice.

Only one state, Florida, outlaws adoptions by gays, which have become commonplace in much of the nation.

The Republican nominee-in-waiting was asked for his views on the subject in an interview published Sunday in The New York Times.

"I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption," McCain replied.

McCain then remarked that he and his wife, Cindy, were proud to be adoptive parents of a daughter born in Bangladesh, and he encouraged others to adopt. Asked if those adopting should be a "traditional couple," McCain answered, "Yes."

The responses were condemned by gay and lesbian groups.

"He's completely out of touch," said Kara Suffredini, public policy director for the Family Equality Council. "There's no reason, except for the sake of red meat for his base, to throw up screens in the way of children in foster care getting homes."

Jody Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said McCain's comments were especially dismaying because more than 100,000 children are in foster care waiting to be adopted.

"Sen. McCain would deny loving homes to children who desperately need them simply because of an outdated prejudice about what a family may look like," Huckaby said.

On Tuesday, as criticism of McCain's comments spread, his campaign elaborated on the candidate's views.

"John McCain could have been clearer in the interview in stating that his position on gay adoption is that it is a state issue. ... He was not endorsing any federal legislation," a campaign statement said.

"Sen. McCain's expressed his personal preference for children to be raised by a mother and a father wherever possible," the statement added. "However, as an adoptive father himself, McCain believes children deserve loving and caring home environments, and he recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. John McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative."

An estimated 65,000 children have been adopted by gays and lesbians, according to advocacy groups. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers, among other groups, have expressed support for gay adoptions.

"It is an insult to these professionals and the children whom they represent to suggest that the door should be closed to people other than a 'traditional' married couple," said Ellen Kahn, who coordinates family-related projects for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group.

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said McCain "needs to read the research and rethink his comments."

"His implication is that every adopted child should have a mother and father," Pertman added. "That may be the ideal, but if we stick to it, we would have far fewer homes for kids. Single people ? gay and straight ? represent a significant number of adoptive parents."

States have widely varying laws regarding adoption by same-sex couples, but only Florida has a law explicitly banning gays and lesbians from adopting as individuals.

Conservative activists in Arkansas have been working to get a similar ban on the ballot in November, but have struggled to generate public support. Earlier this month, they turned in a petition with 65,899 signatures ? only slightly more than the required number and well under the initial goal of 100,000 signatures.

Recent national polls suggest that support for the concept of gay adoption is growing. A 2006 poll by the Pew Research Center found a near-even split on the issue; a 2007 poll by CNN and Opinion Research Corp. said 57 percent of respondents felt gays should have the right to adopt, while 40 percent said they shouldn't.

A gay adoptive father in Atlanta, Ken Manford, said he and his partner have felt strong support and acceptance from neighbors and acquaintances since they adopted a son from Guatemala nearly seven years ago.

"If Sen. McCain came and sat down with us, I'd tell him we've proven that both parents are important in our family," Manford said. "It doesn't matter that both those parents are men."

McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, supports adoption rights for gays and lesbians.


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