LANSING – With their families under attack, many LBGT and ally families are telling the state legislature, “enough is enough.”
At the CARES Second Parent Adoption Lobby Day, held May 1, dozens of activist are expected to decend on the capitol to deliver the message that adoption is about the best interest of the kids, not political will.
Penny Gardner, who is organizing the event for CARES, says the bill is important. She says it will open hundreds, perhaps thousands, of older foster children to adoption into loving homes of unmarried parents.
Unmarried parents is a legal distinction designed to recognize not only LBGT partnerships, but also nontraditional family structures like a grandmother and an uncle taking joint custody of a youth, or as ACLU’s Jay Kaplan says, “Two nuns who are not related by marriage or any relationship but wanting to give a child a loving home.”
Kaplan says the ACLU believes Michigan law does not prohibit second parent adoptions, but many judges around the state have read the laws differently. “There is no law in Michigan or legal precedent that makes this illegal. It’s up to individual judges.”
And those judges are ruling all over the map, Kaplan and Gardner say, which makes this proposed law so important. It would bring some clear direction to the issue.
Advocates are excited this year, believing the bill has its greatest chances yet. In past years, when the house was controlled by Republicans, the bill languished in Judiciary Committee limbo while bills designed to deny adoption options to persons based on an organizations faith based beliefs received widespread hearings.
In the end though, advocates say it is in the best interest of children and in the long run, of the state.
“A lot of these kids are going out of the foster care system at 18,” said Gardner. “They are more apt to be a collateral cost to the state in the welfare, health care or the corrections system.”
While no opponents have been visible or vocal yet, Gardner concedes there is likely to be a homophobic backlash. Seak Kosofsky, director of policy for the Triangle Foundation, one of the sponsors of the lobby day, says opponents are not visible yet, but they are anticipating the potential.
He said, however, that every issue at the capitol is buried under the weight of the current budget crisis, saying legislators have been hunkering down in day-long budget strategy sessions and refusing to take meetings on any issue except the budget.
The budget crisis is so overwhelming the state capitol, a planned Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday was postponed until May 9 to allow the committee to focus exclusively on the budget crisis.