Arizona Privileges Married Heterosexuals in Adoption

One day after standing up to right-wing zealots by vetoing a birther bill that would require presidential candidates to produce a birth certificate in order to appear on the ballot in Arizona, Republican Governor Jan Brewer, on April 19, signed legislation gives prospective adoptive parents who are married preferential treatment over families headed by unmarried couples, gay or straight, or single people.

According to the Arizona Republic, “all other criteria being equal,” both private and public adoption agencies will be required to choose married couples over other prospective parents. EastValleyTribune.com noted that the legislation specifically says that in such “tie” situations, “placement preference shall be with a married man and woman.’’

Jan Brewer won't demagogue on birth certificates, but from that point on…

That website reported that the other factors considered under Arizona law include the goal of keeping siblings together, consideration of the wishes of the birth parent and of an adoptee who is at least 12 years old, and the encouragement of “established relationships” between the adoptee and adults such as grandparents and foster parents. Agencies are directed to find a placement “that best meets the safety, social, emotional, physical, and mental health needs of the child.’’

Consequently, married different-sex couples would not always stand in line ahead of other prospective parents, but LGBT advocates expressed alarm over what the law means not only for the rights of families headed by gay men and lesbians but also for the welfare of Arizona children.

Tom Mann, who chairs Equality Arizona, the state’s LGBT civil rights group, stated, “The governor's action today is harmful to children in foster care and group homes who are seeking a permanent home and the support of a loving, caring family.” He said Brewer failed to “demonstrate real leadership.”

Ellen Kahn, the director of the Family Project at the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington-based national LGBT lobby, said, “Child welfare experts agree that adoptive parents should be judged by their character and their ability to raise a child, not on their marital status or sexual orientation. It’s shameful that politics trumps the needs of children. In Arizona, approximately one-third of qualified adults adopting from foster care are single parents.”

The Republic quoted Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which pushed for the new law, saying that the measure addressed “critical issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty.” Right-leaning groups have in recent years increasingly voiced the argument that basic civil rights protections for LGBT Americans somehow threaten the religious liberty of others.

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