|Legislative battles are heating
up in several states this year over adoption rights. And
if predictions by USA Today prove to be true, legislators and
voters from coast to coast soon may be voting on measures to ban
unmarried couples from adopting children.
According to Andrea Stone,
political correspondent for USA Today, conservatives see these
adoption bans as a new tactic to stir things up in 2007 and to
bring their supporters to the polls in swing states in 2008.
The USA Today story said that
bills and ballot measures were being drafted in 16 states.
Republicans might use adoption as
a wedge issue in close Senate and governor races, said political
scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe.
"Now that we've defined what
marriage is, we need to take that further and say children
deserve to be in that relationship," Greg Quinlan of Ohio's
Pro-Family Network, a conservative Christian group, told USA
The debates are now in state
legislatures. Next year the action will be at election
Whether an unmarried couple may
adopt a child has been a gray area of law in most states.
Over the years, the gray has turned to black and white in about
half the states, while the other half still have murky legal
Second-parent adoptions, as they are often called, are
specifically allowed by statute or appellate court decisions in
ten states: California, Connecticut, District of Columbia,
Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, and Vermont. They are also permitted in some
counties in at least fifteen other states.
legal trend seems to be toward approving such adoptions,
appellate courts in Colorado, Ohio, Nebraska, and Wisconsin have
held they are not permissible.
This year, debates over
unmarried adoptions have erupted in Arkansas, Colorado,
Michigan, Nebraska, and New Hampshire.
"This bill is about acting in the
best interest of the child and promoting parental
responsibilities and creating a stable economic environment for
Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder,
told the Rocky Mountain News after her bill
to allow second-parent adoptions passed its first committee in the Colorado House of
Representatives on March 8.
Senate voted on a bill in March to prohibit
cohabiting unmarried couples from adopting an unrelated child.
The measure died in the House of
Representative Paul Condino introduced a bill into the Michigan
Legislature in February to allow unmarried second-parent adoptions. The bill
would overturn an Attorney General opinion issued last year
concluding that state law
prohibits unmarried couples from jointly adopting a child.
Hampshire Legislature is currently considering a bill to clarify
second-parent adoptions by unmarried couples in that state.
Judges in six counties have ruled that such adoptions are legal
while those in four other counties have ruled just the opposite.
If the bill
passes, two unmarried adults in a "familial relationship" could
adopt a child together. Familial relationship would require the
adults to share a home as well as "economic interdependence."
In Nebraska a
bill to legalize adoptions by unmarried couples has been placed
on hold. It was introduced in January and set for a
hearing in the Judiciary Committee on March 1, but the hearing
was then abruptly cancelled without explanation.
Supreme Court stirred things up in that state last year when it
issued a 4 to 1 decision allowing adoptions by unmarried
couples. Those who cheered the decision are now concerned
that a proposed ballot measure to outlaw gay marriage may also
change this adoption precedent.
to the Indiana Constitution, working its way through the state
Legislature, would not only prohibit same-sex marriage but limit
the rights of unmarried couples as well. It
was approved in February by a 39-10
vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.
of these adoption debates will have significant
national ramifications. About 32 percent of all adoptions
in the United States are by unmarried adults.
Voters and lawmakers considering
these issues would do well to keep in mind an observation once
made by New York's highest court.
The New York Court of Appeals
declared that public policy should be
the adoption of as many children as possible regardless of the
sexual orientation or marital status of the individuals seeking
to adopt them."
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and