Bill Provision Could Harm Gay Families

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A bill introduced this legislative session would threaten the legal status of biological parents whose gay partners have adopted their children, according to a press release issued by Equality Utah on Feb. 3.

Titled Adoption Revisions and sponsored by Rep. Sheryl L. Allen, R-Bountiful, HB 42 seeks to amend several provisions of the Utah Adoption Act, including: clarifying the terms under which a non-resident may file to adopt a Utah child; specifying the consent needed from a biological father before an adoption can take place; and lowering the age of adult adoptees from 21 to 18. It also contains what the local gay rights group is calling a section that could hurt same-sex parents with children.

In one of its later sections, HB 42 defines the circumstances under which a biological, or birth, parent will be released from all legal responsibilities to his or her offspring. In this section, a biological parent’s rights will not be terminated if his or her legal spouse adopts the child, but will be if someone to whom they are not married adopts their offspring—even if this individual is sharing a residence with the biological parent.
Under Utah law, adults eligible to adopt children must be single or have a marriage license that the state recognizes—that is, one for a heterosexual marriage. Same and opposite-sex cohabitating couples—those in a sexual relationship but who are unmarried—have not been able to adopt children since 2000.

Despite this law, some gay people have been able to adopt their partners’ children as a second parent by signing sworn affidavits that they and their partner are not in a sexual relationship.

“There are criminal penalties for lying on a sworn affidavit, but the courts and [local gay rights group] Equality Utah have presumed that these LGBT parents are telling the truth,” said Equality Utah in a media release.

“HB 42 was drafted by attorneys and judges who were not aware that some LGBT people were adopting their partners’ children,” the release continued. “These lawyers and judges found a technicality in the law that could threaten the rights of biological parents if they remarried and allowed their new spouses to adopt their children. In a misguided effort to protect the rights of biological parents in step-parent adoptions, HB 42 was introduced. … [if the bill passes] [f]or LGBT Utahns, this will mean that either one parent OR the other can have a legal bond to their children, but not both parents.”

Equality Utah will host a “parenting focused meeting” tomorrow evening to discuss plans to oppose this bill, as well as plans to support a pro-gay adoption bill sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City.

The meeting will take place Feb. 5 at Equality Utah’s offices, 175 W 300 S, suite 3001, from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. For more information call (801) 355-3479.

To find out how to write to your legislators about this bill visit equalityutah.org/action.

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