Bill would toss adoption preference for heterosexual couples

AP News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2016 10:09 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — Democrats in the Arizona Legislature want a law that requires judges to give preferences to married heterosexual couples in adoption stricken from the books.

The legislation introduced in both the Senate and House removes current language giving preferences to a husband and wife over others in adoptions. Backers say the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage bans laws giving preferences to heterosexual couple over gay couples.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, also said single parents shouldn't be given second-tier status on adoptions so the proposal completely eliminates preferences for married couples. He said single parents are just as qualified and sometimes more so to be good parents.

He also points to the approximately 19,000 children in state foster care as a reason to change current law.

"Anyone who would argue that it's better off to leave a foster kid in a group home instead of in a loving family, even if it happens to be a mom and a mom or a dad and a dad, is arguing out of their own ideological interest not out of the interest of the kid," said Farley, the lead Senate sponsor.

The Senate version, Senate Bill 1171, is assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee chaired by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix. She opposes Farley's bill.

Committee chairs can prevent bills from being heard by not placing them on hearing agendas.

Barto said Thursday that Arizona lawmakers passed the law to ensure children can be raised by a mother and father.

"These other decisions in law that our elected representatives have chosen to make, these changes preferring a man and a woman in terms of adoption and other things, those have not been addressed by the Supreme Court," Barto said. "Those are still up to the states. And they should be based on the social science, which is what the original laws making them so were based on.

"Until the social science indicates otherwise, a man and a woman, a mother and father, are the best place for a child to be raised," Barto said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona disagrees with Barto that the Supreme Court decision doesn't apply to adoption preference laws.

"As confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, married same-sex couples must be treated equal to opposite-sex couples in all respects," ACLU spokesman Steve Kilar said in a written statement. "We want to hear from any same-sex couples in Arizona who receive discriminatory treatment in adoption services because the law right now clearly prohibits that, even without the proposed amendments."

Phoenix attorney Stephen Dichter, who works with straight and gay couples on adoptions, agrees a preference for heterosexual couples is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court decision. He also said the law is just a guideline for judges that can be ignored, and he's never seen it come into play.

"What I've seen and sensed about these judges is that they are really happy to put children without a parent into a situation in which they have two parents," Dichter said. "I haven't seen a thing that suggests that they (cared) whether they are male, female, one of each or whatever."

The house version, HB2392, hasn't been assigned to a committee.