The Gay History site has published a very interesting article, drawing on an article published by the New York Times, on how gay couples prevented from marrying choose another route to try and ensure their partner’s rights – that of adopting their partner!
Here I have reprinted the article and then afterwards a editorial piece submitted by Sean McGouran for NIGRA –
Bayard Rustin and Walter Naegle | NPR | 15399
The New York Times have been delving into the history of gay men who could not marry, so one partner adopted the other partner, instead.
Adult adoption by gays and lesbians has only been quietly discussed, both in or outside the gay community, for fairly obvious reasons; there isn’t an easy way to tell your friends and family that the man or woman with whom you share a bed is, legally, your son or father, or your daughter or mother. Consequently, there are no reliable data — or even flimsy data — as to the number of such adoptions, and experts in the field are unwilling to hazard a guess. The practice seems to have taken hold amid the tumult of the 1970s and 1980s, during rampant discrimination and the onset of the AIDS crisis.
Some famous people got round the lack of an option to get married by one adopting the other, it seems. Bayard Rustin and Walter Naegle, pictured, used the legal dodge to protect their interests.
Naegle and Rustin were attracted to each other immediately — they kissed for the first time that day — and became a couple thereafter. During their 10 years together, marriage was not discussed; it simply wasn’t imaginable. .. Rustin wanted to ensure that Naegle — who, at 37 years his junior, would surely outlive him — would inherit his estate, he availed himself of the least-bad option: adoption… Naegle recalled the adoption process: First, his biological mother had to legally disown him. Then a social worker was dispatched to the Rustin-Naegle home in Manhattan to determine if it was fit for a child. “She was apprised of the situation and knew exactly what was happening,” Naegle told me. “Her concern, of course, was that he wasn’t some dotty old man that I was trying to take advantage of, and that I wasn’t some naive young kid that was being preyed upon by an older man.”
The adoption proved a shrewd decision. Naegle, as next of kin, had visiting privileges when Rustin was hospitalized for a perforated appendix and peritonitis and was eventually executor of the will. Despite the oddness of the arrangement, it was, all things considered, legally seamless.