Utah Rep. Moves to Allow Gay Adoption

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday December 26, 2008

A bill now before the Utah state legislature would ensure that the door to adoption by qualified gay and lesbian parents would not be slammed shut on children needing good homes and gay or lesbian prospective parents looking to provide care and family to children with nowhere else to go.

According to a Dec. 23 article published in the Salt Lake Tribune the measure--titled the "Forever Homes for Every Child" bill--would make explicit the state's right to choose heterosexual married couples over gay, lesbian, or single prospective adoptive parents, but it would also deliberately and specifically allow for adoption by single parents or unmarried couples, as long as the child is a ward of the state or the biological parents agree to the adoption.

The bill is intended as a redress for the current state law that bans adoption by unmarried prospective parents. Given the state's constitutional ban on allowing gay and lesbian families to marry, that is tantamount to barring adoption by gay and lesbian prospective parents.

The state now has over 450 children in need of placement in good homes. The state's legislature, however, might prefer to see children remain in the system rather than to allow them to be placed in homes headed by same-sex couples.

The reason: the Mormon faith officially promotes the raising of children in homes with both a mother and a father.

Not addressed by that is the question of whether state care is an adequate substitute for a home life offering a single parent or two loving parents of the same gender.

The legislation is the project of state Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a salt Lake City Democrat, who was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune article as saying of same-sex parents, "These folks meet every single other criteria that's listed for adoption and fostering.

"The only thing that's different is the relationship between the adults."

Added Rep. Chavez-Houck, "There's a very big body of research that shows that [the parents'] sexual orientation does not affect the well-being of a child."

Chavez-Houck submitted the measure earlier this year, but it has remained stuck in committee.

Even if it does clear the House, it would be an uphill battle for the measure to clear the state Senate.

The Tribune article quoted Michael Waddups, the Senate President-Elect, as saying, "My gut feeling says we're not even going to see that bill in the Senate."

Added Waddoups, "That sounds like they're trying to set up a family relationship that [due to the state constitutional amendment barring marriage for gay and lesbian families] isn't allowed."

The Senate President-Elect went on, "If we're going to change the definition of a family, we should do it constitutionally--not through end runs."

The professionals on the ground whose responsibility it is to care for children without families disagree.

The article quoted Duane Betournay, the director of the state's Department of Children and Family Services, as saying, "To limit the number of homes we have available to us for possible adoption doesn't really make sense in light of the number of children who we have in foster care awaiting adoption."

The article said that, according to Betournay, it is not unusual for children in the state's system to reach the age of legal majority and then enter the adult world without having had the benefit of a stable, loving home life.

Said Betournay, "Our preference would be to look at it on a case-by-case basis and make those decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.