NJ Court Grants Adoption to Gay Couple
NEWARK, N.J. -- Paving the way for an important lesbian and gay rights victory, a New Jersey judge Oct. 22 granted a gay couple the right to jointly adopt their two-year-old foster son, ruling that the adoption is in the child's best interest.
Judge Sybil R. Moses of the Bergen County Superior Court in Hackensack issued her decision after a hearing in which the American Civil Liberties Union, represented by cooperating attorney Barbara Fox, said that the couple have proven they are good parents and that denying the adoption would harm the child.
The couple, Jon Holden and Michael Galluccio, filed a court petition to jointly adopt their son, Adam, after being told by state officials that they had to go through an expensive and time-consuming two-step process.
"We are ecstatic beyond belief," said Holden. "Michael and I can concentrate our attention on being Adam's parents, and stop worrying about lawsuits."
Lenora Lapidus, legal director of the ACLU of New Jersey, said: "Adam finally has a permanent and legal home. The parents he has known and loved are now the parents officially recognized by the state of New Jersey."
In January 1996, Holden and Galluccio agreed to become the foster parents for three-month-old Adam, who was born HIV exposed and cocaine addicted.
After nursing him back to a remarkable recovery, the couple sought to adopt Adam together, but were told by state adoption officials that only one parent could adopt him at a time. The second parent, state officials said, would have to reenter the courts and apply as a step parent.
The state had dredged up a previously unenforced regulation that they claim limited adoptions to married couples and single parents, although New Jersey adoption law provides no such restriction. Instead, as the judge ruled today, the state adoption law requires that the child's best interest takes paramount concern -- a test that everyone, including the state, agrees that Holden and Galluccio met.
"A two-step adoption process would have left Holden and Galluccio several thousand dollars poorer, and Adam without two legal parents for at least a year," said Michael Adams, staff attorney with the ACLU's National Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "Thanks to this ruling, the couple can now focus on Adam's future, rather than fighting with the state."
The ruling also shifts the focus to a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU in June on behalf of the couple and Lambda Families, a New Jersey group comprised of lesbian and gay families. The class action charges that the state's refusal to grant adoptions to lesbian and gay couples violates equal protection, is inconsistent with state adoption law and, above all, is not in the best interest of children.
That case is now pending before Judge Moses and will be heard in November. A victory in that case will allow other gay couples in the state to adopt their children jointly.
The ACLU plans to invoke today's ruling, as well as the current social science research, to argue that lesbian and gay couples have the same parenting skills as married couples. Indeed, scientific studies consistently demonstrate that the children of gay parents grow up every bit as healthy, happy, and well-adjusted as the children of heterosexual couples.
Recognizing that body of research, more than 20 states nationwide have approved adoptions by lesbian and gay parents, although today's ruling is one of the first involving a joint adoption by a gay couple, rather than a single gay parent.
Holden and Galluccio have been together for more than 15 years, sharing a home in the quiet suburban town of Maywood, N.J. Galluccio commutes every morning to Manhattan, where he is a sales director at a major telecommunications company. Holden, who gave up a corporate job to pursue acting and writing, stays at home to take care of Adam and a baby girl who the couple hopes to adopt in the future.
"This has got to be the happiest day of our lives," said Galluccio. "We are a real family, and now nobody can take that away from us."
Founded in 1920, the ACLU works on more lesbian and gay related litigation and legislation than any other organization in the country.