New Jersey expands adoption access for LGBTQ families

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On Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation streamlining the adoption process for LGBTQ families.

The new law allows LGBTQ couples wherein one person is not a biological parent of a child to submit a marriage certificate, civil union certificate or “proof of comparable marital-type relationship from another jurisdiction,” according to Garden State Equality. Couples are also required to present an original birth certificate containing both parents’ names, and a “sworn declaration by the parents explaining the circumstances of the child’s conception,” and have it validated in a court. In New Jersey, birth certificates do not establish parentage.

“Previously, parents had to go through a very long, arduous process that had house visits, background checks, going before a judge, lots and lots of steps that required to get a lawyer and cost lots of money,” said Jon Oliveira, director of communications and membership for New Jersey LGBTQ advocacy and education organization Garden State Equality.

Now, the arduous process will be eliminated in favor of providing simple documentation.

Oliveira underscored the work of Danni Newbury and her wife, who had to go through the previous “second-parent or confirmatory adoption” process, which involved a series of background checks, legal fees and a judicial hearing in order to obtain the adoption.

“The confirmatory adoption process for LGBTQ parents is rife with legal red tape, high costs and significant barriers,” said Alisha De Lorenzo in a release, Garden State Equality’s interim deputy director. “And I can say from personal experience that this law will truly change the lives of our families for the better.” 

Newbury and her wife Christy Wilson worked with Bill Singer, Esq. and Debra Guston, Esq. to draft this legislation and secured New Jersey Sen. Nicholas Scutari as a primary sponsor for the new law.

“We supported their effort along the way, but those folks deserve all credit,” Oliveira said. “Parents should be focused on providing and protecting their families. Forcing loving and committed couples to jump through hoops and spend thousands of dollars to retain legal counsel just so they can start a family like every other American, isn’t who we are in New Jersey.” 

This win for New Jersey LGBTQ families coincides with the passing of a Tennessee state senate bill that awards religious adoption providers the right to refuse services to LGBTQ partners seeking adoption.

“Here in New Jersey we have a different view where we celebrate the diversity of our families and ensure that they have everything that they need so they can thrive here,” Oliveira said.