Mitt Romney last week defended his hazy position on gay adoption with an apparently false statistic.
"I think all states but one allow gay adoption," Romney told a CBS affiliate in North Carolina Friday. "So that’s a position, which has been decided by most of the state legislatures, including the one in my state. So I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one."
Romney cited the figure in attempting to backtrack from apparent support for gay adoption to a position of states-rights neutrality.
But the source of the claim that only one state outlaws gay adoption is unclear, and the claim itself is inaccurate. A campaign spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for clarification.
In fact, gay parents can petition jointly for adoption statewide in only 18 states along with Washington DC. In five states — Michigan, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Utah — same-sex couples are prohibited from jointly filing for the adoption of a child. Another 18 states allow one gay or lesbian parent can petition to adopt the child of his or her partner.
In 27 states, meanwhile, the status of same-sex adoption remains unclear, and the law is ambiguous to whether same-sex parents can adopt. Only 10 states have laws making it illegal to discriminate on adoption based on sexual orientation.
Romney may have been referring to the fact that gay adoption, by both single and same-sex couples, was explicitly outlawed in Florida in 1977. But a Federal appeals court overturned the ban in 2010. Similarly, a gay adoption ban put in place by Arkansans voters in 2008, was struck down by the state’s high court in 2011.
Gay rights activists were quick to attack Romney on the mis-statement.
"Governor Romney’s facts are wrong and his callousness is glaring," said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign.
UPDATE: Romney was referring to a law explicitly banning same-sex adoption by statute in Mississippi, a campaign aide said.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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