News & Politics

Online Adoption Agency Denies Service to Gays

The adoption website is brazenly violating anti-discrimination laws.
Like many other couples wanting to adopt, Rosario Grennaro and Alexander Gardner eventually found themselves wanting to tap the geography-defying power of the Internet.

"We wanted to raise children. And we thought we could provide a loving home to a child that didn't have one," says Grennaro, an IBM computer researcher.

"We heard about people using the Internet. And it seemed very cost-effective because you reach everybody," he adds.

But as the couple researched Websites that help birth mothers find loving permanent homes for their babies, they were disturbed to learn that the popular only allows "one male husband and one female wife" couples to use its Internet-based adoption-matching service.

Even couples like Grennaro and Gardner, who married in Canada and whose marriage is recognized by their home state of New York, aren't eligible. The Website says eligibility is restricted to marriages "legally recognized in all states in the United States."

During their research, Grennaro and Gardner learned that the Arizona-based operators of settled a lawsuit in California brought by another gay male couple. In that case, the Website's operators decided not to do future business with any California couples.

That settlement followed a March 30, 2007, preliminary order by a San Francisco federal district court judge allowing the California gay couple's lawsuit to go to trial.

"Where an out-of-state business solicits California customers and does business with customers living in California, California has an interest in ensuring that the out-of-state business does not discriminate against the California customers," Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton wrote in Butler v. Adoption Media, LLC.

Like the California gay couple, New Yorkers Grennaro and Gardner are accusing the Web-based business of violating state anti-discrimination laws.

With the help of Lambda Legal, they've filed a complaint with New York's attorney general. did not respond to my requests for comment.

"In effect, (the site's operators) have posted a sign on the door to their business announcing that lesbian and gay couples will not be served there," the couple's complaint states.

"Our state should not be a safe haven for out-of-state Internet companies that solicit business from our residents while openly advertising that they discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, sex and marital status," the complaint continues.

Lambda attorney Kevin Cathcart expects businesses, insurers and lawyers will watch the New York complaint closely because of its potentially far-reaching impact on the e-commerce world.

Rules for navigating in cyberspace are still evolving. Already, this brave new commercial world has transformed such ordinary transactions as collecting sales taxes or placing $5 bets on a roulette wheel into cutting-edge controversies.

"We believe the Web is not something you can hide behind to avoid state anti-discrimination laws," Cathcart says. "The Web doesn't exempt you."

Going low-tech, Gennaro and Gardner kept searching by placing newspaper ads. They adopted a newborn in January.

Now, 7-month-old Matilde enjoys smiling at one set of her grandparents, who live in Italy, via a Web camera.

"We love being parents," says Grennaro, adding that he and his husband hope to adopt next time with the help of the popular Internet service. "We don't want Matilde to be an only child."

Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues.
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