Adoption is an important, yet peripheral issue in the relationship of the family to society. It is peripheral because typically, the percentage of children who are adopted instead of being cared for by their biological parents is rather small. It is nonetheless important because the societal standards surrounding adoption reflect the values and beliefs of the society. The standards may include informal norms and social expectations, as well as legislation passed by elected bodies, and policies formed by public and private adoption agencies. The subjects of those social rules range from the social norms under which biological parents voluntarily place children for adoption, the legal rules under which their consent is secured, and the conditions under which agents of the state may remove children from biological parents and place them for adoption. Society will also have a set of shared understandings, laws and social norms about the terms under which adults unrelated to the child may be considered as acceptable adoptive parents. All of these standards reflect the values of the society.
The topic of adoption by gay and lesbian couples is a subset of this broader set of questions about shared norms and values. Before I begin to lay out my specific arguments on the topic of adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, I will situate marriage and the family and their relationship to the larger society within a larger intellectual framework.
I will cover three topics. First, what is the place of family within society and how does it differ from other social institutions? Second, what is the role of gender within society and the family? Third what are public reasons in favor of limiting adoption by same sex couples?
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