Despite Warnings of Costly Lawsuit, Committee Opts to Kill Adoption Bill

Representative Angela Romero (Democrat - Salt Lake City)
Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City)

A bill that seeks to ensure the equal treatment of LGBT Utahns with regard to adoption and foster-care failed to advance in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

The legislation came before the committee on February 12, but after a tense hearing lawmakers chose to adjourn before taking a vote on the bill.

HB 234 – Adoptive and Foster Parents Amendments, sponsored by Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City), proposes changing “man and woman” to “couple” or “spouse” within the adoption and foster parent statutes.

“This is really about people and about children being loved. Regardless of what your personal beliefs are, this is about children,” Romero told the committee. “I have a lot of constituents who are very loving parents, and for us to deny them a right because of who they love is ridiculous.”

Salt Lake City attorney Paul Burke cautioned the committee that the state risks a lawsuit if the now-unconstitutional language is not changed. “The United States Constitution, specifically the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, have been determined to protect the rights of all citizens to enjoy the privileges of marriage. That was made very clear by the U.S. Supreme Court last June that that applies to all terms and conditions of marriage,” said Burke.

Representative LaVar Christensen (Republican – Draper) “respectfully disagreed” with Burke’s statement. “We cannot be misled to think that this judiciary committee is somehow compelled as a matter of law to broaden, to expand, to extend,” said Christensen. “It expands an area that is disputed law. It’s based on a flawed premise, a claimed mandate. It is not an accurate portrayal.”

Representative Merrill Nelson (Republican – Grantsville) said that the Supreme Court’s decision guarantees the right to marry, not adopt. “States are required to give gay couples marriage licenses; they are not required to give gay couples children, either through foster placements or adoptive placements. I must clarify here that no one is saying that gay couples cannot or should not parent children or that they cannot be good parents. We are not saying they should be barred from foster or adoption placements. All we are saying is that the state remains free to express a preference for man-woman marriages in the placement of children.”

The committee vote resulted in a 5-5 tie, automatically killing the bill.

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