Second parent adoption bill on the move

By |2009-05-07T09:00:00-04:00May 7th, 2009|News|

by Jessica Carreras

Proponents of the second parent adoption bill, House Bill 4131, rejoiced last week as the bill began to move forward. However, they admit that there’s still a long way to go – and lots of fundraising, lobbying and education to do.
On April 22, the bill, which would provide full adoption rights to unwed couples – including same-sex couples – was approved by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. The bill passed in an 8-6 vote with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.
During the last legislative session, the bill died in the House in July and was never taken up by the Senate. But members of Coalition for Adoption Rights, which has been spearheading the effort, said this year will be different.
“I’m fairly certain it will pass this session,” said CARE Vice President Jane Bassett. “The next thing is to work with the leadership in the House to determine a time when it will be brought up for a vote.”
And to raise the necessary funds to continue CARE’s work, which they plan to do with two upcoming fundraisers.
The first is an ongoing Mother’s Day fundraiser in collaboration with Enchanted Florist of Ypsilanti. Any person who buys a $50 azalea plant for Mother’s Day can specify that they are supporting CARE, and 15 percent of the proceeds will go to help their cause.
Then, on 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 13, CARE will host a Spring Beer Tasting Festival at the Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor. It will feature a variety of brews for sampling, plus hors d’oeuvres. A silent auction will also be featured at the event.
Funds will go toward objectives like raising awareness of the need for second parent adoption, and more lobbying to sway the opinions of less supportive representatives.
Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem) sponsored the bill, and said that support of the bill is a matter of common sense.
“I think it’s important for children to have the opportunity to have the security that a two-parent household brings…,” Smith said. “It gives children a tremendous amount of stability and continuity and that is more important to me than anything. We’ve got two willing adults who want to be in the children’s lives and want to make that kind of financial and security commitment to them and we’re putting obstacles in their way. That’s wrong.”
However, while the issue is clear to her, Smith acknowledged that there are still many opponents of the bill in the House. Many hail from more conservative areas, and Smith said they are reluctant to accept that the bill is merely making an already legal process easier – albeit a process many Michigan judges refuse to let unwed parents go through.
For Smith, the next step is seeing where support of the bill stands.
“Right now, I’m working on getting a count so we can get the 56 votes (needed to pass the bill),” Smith explained. “As soon as I know where our soft spots are and where we may need to do some additional lobbying of some of my colleagues and who they are, then I will get those names out to supporters of the legislation and we will start working on the members until we get the 56.
“When I know we have those votes, I will make every effort to have leadership move the bill.”
Smith agreed with Bassett that the bill has a strong chance of passing out of the House in 2009. “I know that we have a moratorium on some kinds of legislation until we can actually get the budget straightened out, but that’s going to be an ongoing process,” Smith said. “I think that once the executive order is out of our way next week, we’ll start looking at more difficult pieces of legislature. I would like to get (second parent adoption) done in the House this year.”
The bigger challenge, however, will be the Senate. Bassett and Smith agreed that the chances of the bill passing in the Senate this year are slim. It’s more likely that the bill will be put on hold until after 2010 midterm elections, when supporters hope that a change in the number of Democratic seats will result in increased support of the bill.
“I think with the make up of the current Senate, we probably don’t have much of a chance…,” Bassett said. “We should end up with a different configuration after the 2010 election, and then we’ll have an opportunity to assess at that point whether or not to push it for a vote in the Senate.”
Rep. Smith, while optimistic about the bill’s chance in the House, was equally skeptical of the current Senate.
Smith commented that the main problem is that some legislators do not believe that gays and lesbians should be parents. “Primarily, (the objections are) the gay/lesbian issue and that children shouldn’t have same-sex parents; that they are better raised in a family with a mother and a father,” Smith said. “There is no research that supports that, but it doesn’t stop people from feeling that way and arguing those counter issues.”
For Smith, it’s just another legal battle – like affirmative action and same-sex marriage – that makes Michigan a less appealing state to both businesses and individuals. “(Second parent adoption) has nothing to do with a marriage or same-sex insurance,” she added. “It has everything to do with the child and isn’t covered by the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which is another unfortunate thing that we have here in Michigan. It makes us a very unwelcoming, non-inclusive state and we need to change.”

CARE Spring Beer Tasting Festival
5:30 p.m. May 13
Arbor Brewing Company, 114 E. Washington, Ann Arbor
Tickets: $25 adults, $15 ages 20 and under

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.