Gay rights in America: How states stand on gay marriage and 6 other issues

The tapestry of federal and state laws surrounding gay rights is enormously complex. Here is a look at each state's laws regarding issues ranging from gay marriage to hate crimes to hospital visitation. 

2. Adoption

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    Jim Olive holds the hand of his adoptive son, Bryce, while he and his partner attend a service at the King Avenue United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2005.
    AP Photo/Columbus Dispatch, Chris Russel
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(Updated June 13, 2013)

• Federal: No statutes.

• States: The rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) parents vary widely among states, and laws regarding adoption are often unclear. All states allow a single individual – regardless of sexual orientation – the right to petition to adopt a child, but fewer than half allow a same-sex couple to petition for joint adoption, and some have banned adoption by same-sex parents. Many states restrict adoption by sexual orientation or marital status, and because mostly local courts handle adoptions, some judges may accept or deny petitions from other judges in the same state, causing ambiguous rights for same-sex parents. 

Full joint adoption rights (22 states and D.C.)
Same-sex couples are allowed to petition for joint adoption:

Full second-parent adoption rights (18 states and D.C.)
In these states, a person can adopt the biological or adopted child of his or her partner:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Some rights (51)

All US states and the District of Columbia allow a single individual, gay or not, the right to petition to adopt a child.

No rights (3)
Ban same-sex couples from petitioning for a joint adoption: 

  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Utah 

Bans second-parent adoption:

  • Kentucky
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
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