Over the last few years many states have expanded the traditional idea of "family" by granting parental rights to parties under a variety of new circumstances. Now, non-married couples, same-sex couples, and even single parties can adopt children throughout the United States. Recently, a New York judge expanded the notion of family even further by holding that two friends (never involved in a romantic relationship) of different sexual orientation could adopt a child together. The new mother and father of an Ethiopian child do not even live together. Originally the mother wanted to have a child and the father offered to be a sperm donor. After the friends were unable to conceive, they decided to adopt a child together instead.
The court's decision to allow friends with no commitment to each other to adopt together has raised significant controversy. Among the opponents of the judge's decision is Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council. He asserts the position that the judge's ruling puts the parent's needs over and above the needs of the child. This position is based on Sprigg's belief that the purpose of adoption is "to provide homes for children that resemble as closely as possible the natural family" and that "we would do better to stick with the rule of nature that children do best with a mother and a father who are married to one another". Sprigg cites the level of commitment between married parents as a source of stability for a child and contends that that lifelong pledge will bind the parents together in such a way that cannot be replicated by friends.
Considering the reality that divorce is not a myth and is in fact quite common in the United States today, Sprigg's position merits little credibility. Marriage is a lifelong commitment; however, for a variety of reasons, marriages end. Further, divorce can be one of the most traumatizing experiences a child goes through. If the parents are never married, the child will not experience a divorce. The New York Judge reasoned that the parents "have created a nurturing family environment...including a well-thought-out, discussed and fluid method of sharing parental responsibilities between their homes." Regardless of their marital status, the Judge believed these two to be competent parents.
With so many parentless children worldwide, it is questionable why any parental arrangement is detrimental to the best interests of the child as long as the proposed parents do not pose a danger to the child's emotional and physical wellbeing.