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For week ended December 05, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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ACLU Sues Utah Over Adoption Ban

Summarized by Kent Larsen

ACLU Sues Utah Over Adoption Ban
Associated Press 1Dec99 N6
By Hannah Wolfson: Associated Press Writer

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The ACLU has joined a legal battle against a ban in Utah prohibiting unmarried couples from adopting children. The ACLU says that the ban violates the state constitution and is "grounded in irrational fear and prejudice toward same-sex couples." The lawsuit filed Tuesday is on behalf of two gay couples that wish to adopt.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of another lawsuit by Utah Children, an advocacy group, which sued the state Division of Child and Family Services saying that the rule against adoption by unmarried parents goes against the best interest of children and contradicts attempts to expand the pool of adoptive parents. But the division says that the rule is meant to protect children from potential abuse.

Opponents of the rule, an administrative policy with the effect of law, point out that it would restrict anyone boarding unrelated adults, such as LDS missionaries, as well as gays and unmarried couples. The reference to LDS missionaries is aimed at the state's majority LDS population. The LDS Church has actively fought allowing gay couples to marry in California, Hawaii and Alaska.

The rule requires that all adults in an adoptive home be related by blood, adoption or marriage. A similar rule covers foster parents. However, the rule does allow single adults living alone to adopt.

ACLU attorney Stephen Clark says that the rule limits adoptions unnecessarily, "For some reason, folks here are saying we should let the politicians adopt these broad exclusions instead of letting the experts decide on a case-by-case basis," said Clark. The Utah governor's office reported in September that there were 2,308 children in state care but only 1,014 families ready to take them.

The division's director, Scott Clark, himselve the adoptive father of 19, says that the restriction is reasonable. "We don't place children with people who have no job, terminal illnesses, a history of neglect, or who don't have a bed. It's just not a good idea to have unrelated strange adults have access to children."

Some other states have adopted similar policies, but only Florida bars gay couples from adopting under the law. New Hampshire repealed its ban on gay adoptions earlier this year and California eliminated a rule discouraging unmarried couples from adopting. And in Arkansas, a similar administrative rule is being challenged in court.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information