Throughout the United States, roughly 3 million gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ+) Americans have had a child. In North Dakota, members of the LGBTQ+ community make up 2.7% of the population. According to a 2019 study by The Williams Institute, 10% of their members above the age of 25 are raising children.
It’s no secret that members of the LGBTQ+ community have not always shared the same rights as heterosexual couples. Fortunately, the LGBTQ+ community has made giant strides in recent years to gain equal rights, which include the right to marry and adopt.
It was only three years ago that same-sex couple adoption was legalized in all 50 states. Since then, LGBTQ+ adoptions have been on the rise. In a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau analysis, there were approximately 1.1 million same sex couples in the United States with a child under the age of 18 in their household; 22.5% of female same-sex couple households having a child under the age 18 present, compared with 6.6% of the male same-sex couple households.
Overall, same-sex couples have been found more likely (3.1%) to adopt than opposite-sex couples (1.1%).
If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and are looking to foster or adopt in North Dakota, here is some information you should know:
Single Members of the LGBTQ+ Community Can Adopt
What this means is that any single or married adult member of the LGBTQ+ community can petition for adoption, regardless of their gender or sexual preference. In fact, the Court cannot consider an individual’s sexual orientation or gender when determining who is eligible to adopt a child.
It’s important to note that if a married lesbian couple conceives a child through the assistance of a sperm donor, the non-carrying spouse does not have to adopt the child. Rather, that individual will be treated the same as a heterosexual couple and her name will be written on the child’s birth certificate.
State law also permits any married person to adopt the child of their spouse via stepparent adoption. N.D.C.C. § 14-15-03. A study found in 2019, that same-sex couples are 4x as likely than heterosexual couples to have adopted children or stepchildren.
Joint Same-Sex Adoption is Allowed
There has not been a case brought before the North Dakota Supreme Court regarding the legality of joint same-sex adoptions. However, there is no state statute prohibiting it. Therefore, if a trial court were to refuse to grant an adoption to a same-sex couple based on their gender or sexual orientation, it should be overturned and deemed unconstitutional and discriminatory.
Adoption Agencies are NOT Required to Grant LGBTQ+ Adoptions if it Violates it’s Religious/Moral Beliefs
Under North Dakota Century Code § 50-12-07.1, a child-placing agency cannot be forced to take part in LGBTQ+ adoptions if it is against its religious and/or moral beliefs. Unfortunately, this means that until this statute is challenged through the court system, an agency can deny LGBTQ+ couples due to their gender or sexual orientation. However, this statute only protects private agencies. A public agency, such as Cass County Social Services, cannot discriminate against individuals based on their gender or sexual orientation.
According to a 2007 report by the Williams Institute, if North Dakota were to ban lesbians and gays from serving as foster parents, it would cost the state between $265,000 to $424,000 a year.
Laws like these are why it is imperative that members of the LGBTQ+ community have an experienced family law attorney at their side to help guide them through the difficult process. One of the best parts of our job is to help bring families together. If you or a loved one has decided adopting a child is what is right for you, please contact us by phone at (701) 775-0654, or email us at email@example.com to schedule a free consultation.
*The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.