States That Allow Gay Foster Parenting

By Lori A. Selke
Several states explicitly protect the right of gay and lesbian couples to act as foster parents.
Several states explicitly protect the right of gay and lesbian couples to act as foster parents.

In the United States, family law varies from state to state. Most states, however, do not take a position on whether or not gay and lesbian couples specifically are seen as fit foster parents. Rather, it's left up to child welfare agencies and family court judges to make that determination. A handful of states deny the right of same-sex couples to act as foster parents; conversely, a few states explicitly protect that same right.

States That Explicitly Protect Same-sex Foster Parents

Six states have laws or regulations in place that explicitly protect the right of gays and lesbians to act as foster parents. California, Oregon, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey all have protective anti-discrimination statutes in place for same-sex foster parents.

States That Explicitly Forbid Same-sex Foster Parents

Only two states explicitly forbid same-sex couples from acting as foster parents -- Utah and Nebraska. Virginia allows private agencies to refuse to serve gay or lesbian families due to religious objections, even if the agency takes state funds. In 2011, the state supreme court struck down an Arkansas ballot measure that banned unmarried people, which would have included same-sex couples, from fostering or adopting children.

States Banning Same-sex Adoptions from Foster Care

Mississippi allows same-sex couples to act as foster parents, at least in theory, but explicitly bans same-sex adoptions. Utah bans unmarried cohabiting couples, which would include same-sex couples, from acting as either foster parents or adoptive parents. Florida's same-sex adoption ban was overturned in 2010.

The Rest -- Case By Case

In the remaining 42 states, state law neither forbids nor protects same-sex foster parents.

About the Author

Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate,, The SF Weekly, and