Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lesbian Couple Challenging Adoption Ban in Michigan

This article from the Detroit News summarizes the arguments in a case filed in Michigan by a lesbian couple raising three children but barred from adopting them because of the state ban on unmarried couples adopting:
A federal judge on Wednesday said he'll issue a ruling on a request from the state to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the ban on adoptions by unmarried couples, but not before he suggested the plaintiffs amend their suit to encompass the state's marriage amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman made the remark after a motion hearing in which the state asked the judge to toss out the case brought by a Hazel Park lesbian couple who are raising three children, but are prevented by the state from both being legal parents.

State law says April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse can't adopt their children as a couple, because it is an option available only to heterosexual married couples. The two say the law is unconstitutional and violates their civil rights.

Friedman said Wednesday he'd consider arguments from both sides before rendering his decision, but will first allow the plaintiffs ten days to consider amending their complaint to include a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriages.

"That's the underlying issue," Friedman told attorneys, noting that he's "not suggesting they do it."

"Both arguments are about marriage and how broad or narrow it should be. That's the bottom line."

Joseph E. Potchen, a lawyer with the state Attorney General's office, argued Wednesday that the suit should be dismissed because the couple failed to show the children are being injured by the law. Potchen told Friedman that the state's adoption code, as it stands, "protects children."

"Adoption is not a right, it's a statutory privilege," Potchen said.

Michigan's adoption law allows for married couples and single people to adopt children, but unmarried couples cannot.

A change to the state law would have to come from the Legislature, the attorney general's office has said.

Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor for Wayne State University, argued Wednesday on behalf of DeBoer and Rowse.

Sedler countered that the children are "suffering injury" with the provisions of Michigan law that denies them a second parent adoption solely because the parents cannot legally be married.

"To deny this adoption harms these children. To allow it harms no one," Sedler told Friedman, urging the judge to grant a declaratory judgment to the women. "What we have here is irrationality in the literal sense of the word."
I've posted before (Why Second Parent Adoption is a Good Thing) on this issue.  I strongly disagree with the state's argument that the children are not harmed by the adoption ban and that the adoption law that prohibits this adoption "protects children."  No, it does not.  Children who should have two legal parents are left with just one.  Now, as a single mom, it's probably unsurprising that I'd argue that one parent is better than none.  But I'm not so foolish as to believe that one legal parent is adequate when there is another parent currently raising the child and eager to be a legal parent.  As I stated before:
All that a legal second-parent adoption does is makes sure that there are two parents who have the obligation to support the child financially -- even if the couple splits up. It makes sure that there are two parents from whom the child can inherit even if the second parent doesn't have a will. It makes sure that there are two parents from whom the child can receive Social Security disability and death benefits. It makes sure that the child can continue to have a relationship with the step-parent after the parents divorce, or if the biological parent dies. It makes sure that schools, hospitals, Little League teams, etc., can't treat this parent -- who has been living with and raising the child in fact -- as a legal stranger to the child.

Isn't it in the child's best interest to legalize an already existing familial relationship? It's not like saying no to the adoption will end the relationship, it's just have to limp along without the child having all the legal rights the child is entitled to.
 Have you ever heard anyone say, "The fewer parents a child has, the better!"? I didn't think so.  Under our current legal and social system, the first line of protection for children is PARENTS.  Making sure that children have as few as possible is, indeed, irrational policy.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Ttoally agree with you. I'm a single adoptive Mom too :)