Stories & Grievances
Gay Adoptions: The New Reality TV?
In June 2010 New York Surrogate Court Judge Kristin Booth Glen approved a petition from CNN to video and then broadcast the adoption proceedings of a 5-month-old boy named Nicholas by “Tony,” the partner of “Gary,” who conceived the child with a surrogate.
Gay Adoptions: The New Reality TV?
Posted on June 15th, 2010 by Katherine Franke
Might Kristen Booth Glen become the next Judge Judy? Last week she approved a petition from CNN to video and then broadcast the adoption proceedings of a 5-month-old boy named Nicholas by “Tony,” the partner of “Gary,” who conceived the child with a surrogate. Judiciary Law §218 bars cameras in the courtroom without a judge’s consent, and Domestic Relations Law §114 generally seals adoption records, so the network had to seek Surrogate Glen’s permission to tape and broadcast the adoption. CNN plans to include the adoption proceedings in a show titled: “In America: Gary and Tony Have a Baby” to be shown at 8 p.m. on June 24th as part of Gay Pride Month.
Our own Suzanne Goldberg was appointed by Glen to serve as the child’s guardian ad litem to undertake an inquiry as to whether the recording and subsequent broadcast of the adoption would be inimical to the best interests of Nicholas. Here is her report. And here is Glen’s opinion permitting the taping. In her opinion she highlights Goldberg’s report as follows:
Citing impressive authority, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association, she found that “children raised by lesbian and gay parents develop on a par with the children of heterosexual parents along emotional and psychological measures” (see Am Acad Of Pediatrics, Co-Parent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents, 109 Pediatrics 339 ; American Psychiatric Association, Position Statement 200214 on Adoption and Co-Parenting of Children by Same-Sex Couples ).
Second, she reviewed what she described as an “exponential growth” in media coverage of same-sex couples and their children both in print (as in, inter alia, the New York Times, Boston Herald, USA Today, St. Louis Post Dispatch and Newsday) and on national network television. After “an extensive review” she found no evidence of any harm’s occurring to the children whose images and identities were included in those and other kinds of media coverage.
Third, Professor Goldberg found that “media coverage of children with gay parents has important benefits of facilitating acceptance and diminishing prejudice toward gay parents and their children that are in Nicholas’s best interest.” Reviewing the literature, she quotes scholars as having found that “Broadcast news can  facilitate acceptance of adoption by reflecting postmodern shifts in thinking about family forms and processes. Such shifts involve recognizing diverse family structures, flexible processes, and alternative conceptions of kinship . . .By covering the procedures of adoption and making recommendations, broadcast news can play a role in the promotion of nongenetic kinship forms” (Susan L. Kline, Amanda I. Karel, Karishma Chatterjee, Covering Adoption: General Depictions in Broadcast News, 55 Family Relations 487, 488 ).
Finally, after interviewing both Gary and Anthony, and placing the instant application in the context of her extensive literature search and her own expert knowledge, she noted that broadcast of the adoption proceeding “will not cause undue exposure of the facts that Nicholas is adopted and has gay parents.” She wrote
“Anyone who interacts with Nicholas and his parents will know that Nicholas has gay fathers and that he has been adopted by at least one of them because his parents could not both have participated genetically in his conception. These facts about Nicholas’s family, which will be legally secured during the adoption proceeding, cannot be altered by CNN filming Nicholas’s adoption or circulating that film thereafter. Therefore, there is no cause for concern that Nicholas’s privacy rights could be violated by CNN’s filming of the adoption proceeding.”
Professor Goldberg concluded that “CNN’s filming of Nicholas’s second-parent adoption and subsequent circulation of that film footage cannot reasonably be anticipated to cause Nicholas harm” and, importantly, “will serve this child’s best interest.” Accordingly, this court concludes that granting the application would not “cause harm to any participant in the case” (Jud L § 218 [c][ii]).
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