Teens Split on Gay Adoption Issue

by Heather Mason Kiefer, Contributing Editor

Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional -- a ruling that could lead to the legalization of same-sex marriages in that state. Gay couples looking to adopt children are likely to be monitoring the gay marriage litigation very closely -- gay adoption could become easier if gay marriages or civil unions become legal in more states.

According to the August 2003 Gallup Youth Survey*, teens are evenly split regarding acceptance of adoption by same-sex couples. Fifty-one percent of teens think that gay couples should have the legal right to adopt, while 46% think they should not. When asked this same question in May 2003, U.S. adults were similarly divided.

On the related issue of gay marriage, 42% of teens said they approve and 55% said they disapprove (see "Girls More Likely Than Boys to Approve of Gay Marriage" in Related Items).

Demographic Differences

Not surprisingly, churchgoing teens (who tend to have more conservative values than non-churchgoing teens do) are less likely to favor gay adoption. Thirty-six percent of teens who attended church in the past week think gay adoption should be legal, as do 62% of teens who didn't attend church.

Perhaps more striking are the differences between girls' and boys' opinions on gay adoption. Nearly two-thirds of girls (62%) feel that same-sex couples should have the legal right to adopt a child, compared with just 40% of boys.

These findings are consistent with the variation between male teens and female teens on gay marriage. On the same survey, 56% of girls said they "approve of marriages between homosexuals," while only 30% of boys said the same. Independent of religion or political affiliation, teenage boys in general seem to have more conservative views than girls do on same-sex marriage and legal adoptions. Among adults, men are slightly more likely to hold conservative views than women do on these two issues.

Bottom Line

According to a Nov. 3 story in New York Magazine titled, "Gay Baby Boom: How Kids Are Shaking Up Gay Life in the City," gay couples having children has become quite common in New York City, and widely accepted by many of its residents. As author David Usborne writes, "Now the mainstreaming of gay life has made adopting simpler, less controversial, and the number of people doing it has reached critical mass."

But Gallup data suggest that the issue of gay adoption is still controversial. Both teens and adults are split almost down the middle on the legality of gay adoption, half believing it should be legal and half believing it shouldn't.

*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 517 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Aug. 1 and Aug. 29, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.


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