Florida is the only state with an outright ban on gay adoption.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Religious activists who helped ban gay marriage in Ohio say their next goal is to stop homosexuals from adopting children.
According to sample legislation distributed in April during Ohio Family Lobby Day, a proposal is in the works to bar "homosexual, bisexual, transsexual or transgender individuals" from adopting children or serving as foster parents."
Although the bill has not been introduced in the Statehouse, proponents say they have no shortage of potential sponsors.
Supporters of the measure say they feel emboldened by the success they had promoting Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that defined marriage in Ohio as only between a man and a woman. The issue was passed Nov. 2 with 62 percent of the vote.
Gays and lesbians with children vow to protect their rights, but some say they will leave Ohio if the state becomes too intolerant.
"If it happens, we're gone," said Rodney Sweigart, 34, who works for a bank in Columbus. He and his partner Jim Olive have been together for six years and are raising a 9-month-old boy, Bryce.
Ohio, like other states, already prohibits same-sex couples from jointly adopting.
Both Sweigart and Olive are licensed foster-care providers, but only Olive is Bryce's legal father. Franklin County Children Services placed the newborn with the couple in September after the boy's mother checked into a hospital under a fake name, gave birth and walked out. His biological father is unknown.
Gay and lesbian parents say they are not as rare as the general public thinks.
According to the 2000 Census, about one in three female-partner households had children younger than 18, as did about one of every five male-partner households.
Attempts to stigmatize and criminalize gay parenting are responses to problems that don't exist, said Corri Planck, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Family Pride Coalition.
"These kinds of bills really do not help anyone, and in fact they harm children and harm families," Planck said. "Unfortunately, we're probably going to see more."
Only Florida has an outright ban on gay adoption.
In the past several months, however, at least seven other states have considered some type of measure to bar adoption or fostering by gay applicants.
None has succeeded, Planck said.
Ready to battle
But proponents of an Ohio law are undaunted, drawing encouragement from the ease with which voters approved what has been called the nation's toughest gay-marriage ban.
"If we don't get it done this time, there will be a next time. And a next and a next, until we get it done," said Greg Quinlan, head of the Pro-Family Network in Dayton.
Quinlan rejects the charge that he is promoting prejudice by singling out a minority constituency.
Instead, it is homosexuals who have picked the fight by thinking they should be able to enter into legal unions and adopt children, he said.
Quinlan, 46, said he's a former homosexual. His 30-year-old wife, Cheryl, also said she has been cured of homosexuality. The Quinlans repeat their story at the Ohio Statehouse and at dozens of rallies.
Remembering the kids
Nationwide, about 126,000 children are waiting to be adopted. In Ohio, there are more than 3,000, said Rita Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
"If we come back to that piece, and just remember it at all times, I think the debate will fall away," she said. "When, when, are children going to be the priority?"
The foundation does not take an official position on gay adoption, Soronen said, in part because Thomas, who founded the Wendy's hamburger chain, thought it unnecessary. The best course is to let the experts -- social workers and judges -- make their decisions on a case-by-case basis, she said.
Blanket condemnations against all gay parents make no more sense than an assumption that all heterosexual parents do right by their kids, Soronen said.
Kent Markus, director of the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy at Capital University Law School, said many courts and agencies have moved beyond the rancor.
"They've been doing gay and lesbian placements, quite regularly, quite happily, for years," he said.
Markus said that while adoption-ban proponents say they want to put more children in traditional homes, the most prominent effect probably would be to keep more of them languishing in the foster system.