Judge Redefines Family; Rules Platonic Friends Can Be Parents to Adopted Child

A judge ruled that a New York City couple who are just friends can legally adopt a child, as mother and father, even though they live in different houses and have no commitment to each other besides friendship and the desire to raise a child together. One site calls them "Friends with Parental Benefits."

"I think this has lost sight of the purpose of adoption, which is not to provide children for adults who want them, but to provide homes for children that resemble as closely as possible the natural family," Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday.

Two friends, identified as "LEL" (a man, with a domestic partner) and "KAL" (a woman) met in 2000, according to The New York Daily News. KAL decided she wanted to become a mom, and LEL offered to be her sperm donor. When she couldn't get pregnant, court papers reported that they "decided to instead adopt a child together." In 2011, they adopted "G." from Ethiopia.

Even though they neither live together nor are romantically involved, the couple petitioned Manhattan Surrogate's Court to have LEL named as a second legal parent. "G. calls KAL 'Mommy' and LEL 'Daddy,'" Judge Rita Mella wrote in a decision last month. "Although they live in separate households," the two "have created a nurturing family environment for G., including a well-thought-out, discussed and fluid method of sharing parenting responsibilities between their homes."

LEL argued that by becoming a second parent to G., he would provide her with better health care and school options, and a more secure future. Mella granted his request through a 2010 state statute allowing "intimate partners" to adopt. Bernard Clair, a top matrimonial lawyer not involved in the case, told The New York Daily News that the ruling "expands the boundaries of adoption rights."

"At the very least, our public policy should have a strong preference for placing children with a mother and a father," Sprigg argued.

He admitted that the U.S. allows adoption by single parents, but claimed that this case went too far. "I have never heard of an adoption into that kind of situation before," Sprigg explained, calling it "analogous to divorce and remarriage."

"We know that divorce is harmful to children and stepparent households are not helpful to children either," the researcher claimed. Sprigg argued that judges should make adoption decisions based on the best interests of the child, not the wishes of the would-be parents. In this case, he argued, "the judge has placed the desires of adults ahead of the needs of children."

Sprigg acknowledged that no state bans homosexual adoption today, but some do restrict joint adoption to married couples. "Only married couples have the kind of lifelong commitment to work out their differences with respect to parenting style that is necessary for children to have consistent parenting," he explained. In the case of LEL and KAL, however, there is no guarantee that they will remain cooperative with one another.

Sprigg also mentioned another possible source of tension in G.'s upbringing. "One of these two adoptive parents is actually in a domestic partnership with someone else," he pointed out. "It raises the question as to why he did not want to adopt with his domestic partner and what will the domestic partner's role be in the child's life."

"When you take the position that marriage and the family can be redefined in one way, that opens the door to redefining them in all sorts of situations, none of which I think is good for society," Sprigg concluded. "I think we would do better to stick with the rule of nature that children do best with a mother and a father who are married to one another."

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