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Ethics and Religion Talk: May Same Sex Couples Adopt Children?

Allison D asks, “What are your thoughts on same sex marriage as well as allowing same sex couples to adopt?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Let me make myself clear. The Church teachings, Pope Francis, and the Bishops of the United States agree regarding people who have same-sex attraction. These individuals deserve dignity and respect. They have the right to freedom from abuse and safety from physical harm. Threats and abuse are never to be subjected to anyone who is perceived to be different for any reason!

“Treating people with dignity and respect does not mean giving each person what he/she desires. Like a parent denying his/her child something, the Church must be faithful to its teachings. The Church teaches that the proper matter for marriage is a male and a female. With their free exchange of consent, these two build a communion for the whole of life. Two people with same-sex attraction cannot enjoy marriage in the eyes of the Church because the proper matter is absent.

“The Roman Catholic Church does not support the adoption of children to same-sex couples. Many diocesan offices of Catholic Charities throughout the United States have stopped offering adoption services due to federal intervention requiring openness to same-sex individuals.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“Unitarian Universalists have long been leaders in faith coming out in full support of equal marriage for all. Several UU couples were the lead plaintiffs in the case Goodrich vs Massachusetts which was the legal case making MA the first state to legalize equal marriage. We also fully support same sex couples adopting children. At the core of our faith is the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

“Personally, I find it sad that we are still needing to discuss our ‘thoughts about a group of people.’ I do wonder how people would feel if we were to discuss our thoughts about heterosexual couples in the same way, it does not feel kind to do so. I have been with my wife for 34 years. We have been through it all together as a true partnership. Those who freely call us sinners do not know us at all. Judge not, as Jesus has said.”

The Rev. Steven W. Manskar, a retired United Methodist pastor, responds:

“Same sex marriage is a means of grace. It is a long-overdue recognition of the love shared between gay and lesbian persons. Same sex couples have been living in committed relationships for millennia. I’m pleased this relationships are now recognized by the state and gay and lesbian couples now claim all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage. 

“If the state recognizes same sex couples to marry they should also be allowed to adopt and raise children. I’ve know several gay and lesbian couples who are wonderful, faithful, and loving parents. Children need stable, loving parents. My experience tells me same-sex couples are equal to heterosexual couples in their ability to provide loving, stable homes for adopted children.”

Linda Knieriemen, Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Holland, responds:

“The hallmarks of marriage are mutual love, enduring faithfulness, and commitment to compromise. Same-sex marriage can embody these as much as opposite-sex marriage. My denomination, PCUSA, now permits its pastors to officiate at marriage ceremonies of same- or opposite-sex couples.

“Is same-sex marriage acceptable to God? ‘By their fruits you shall know them.’ Just as opposite-sex marriage, some same-gender marriages will ‘bear more fruit’ than others.

“I have had the privilege of witnessing excellent parenting of adopted children in same gender marriages. The first time was in the late 80’s. Two men from my seminary community adopted a daughter who is now grown and thriving. The second, a lesbian couple are raising sons now 4 and 6. The nonbiological mother adopted her wife’s children. Like any parents, they find parenting joyful, demanding, a privilege, and… exasperating. They, like all parents need and enjoy, the support of their wider church family.

“Yes. Legally, same-gender couples should be allowed to adopt. With the number of children in foster care awaiting their forever home, restrictions placed on such adoptions by religiously conservative agencies are unfortunate. Children need a safe home, unconditional love, and parental commitment. Opposite-gender parents don’t have a corner on these characteristics!”

My response:

Within the non-Orthodox Jewish movements, there is strong support for same-sex relationships, including raising children brought into the family through birth or through adoption. The religious leadership of the orthodox Jewish community is far less comfortable with same-sex marriage and adoption.


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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