The Utah Attorney General’s office is stepping into the “private, personal” matters of adoptions by legally married same sex couples, according to several families who held a press conference at the Utah State Capitol today.
Attorneys Laura Milliken Gray, Shane Marx, Christopher Wharton and Janelle Bauer held the conference, asking the state to “protect all of the families and children in Utah.”
“The Utah Attorney General’s office has taken the extreme position of injecting itself into what have always been private, sealed second-parent adoption cases,” said Gray. “This week, the AG’s office files memos in several ongoing same-sex adoption cases, taking the rare step of actually objecting to the timely completion of these adoptions.”
“These adoptions provide stability to the kids involved, including social security, death and disability, inheritance, health insurance and the right to support and contact by both parents if one dies or if the relationship ends,” Gray continued.
“The state claims in its marriage case that its primary concern is to protect Utah’s children, but instead it is actually affirmatively attacking these children and their parents,” Gray said. “It seems to us particularly egregious for the state to go out of its way to insert itself into these private, highly personal cases. We believe it demonstrates clear animus and a disregard for these families.”
Wharton said that the several parents commenting today are but a few of those who are affected by the AG’s actions.
“We have counseled dozens of other parents who are too terrified out of fear of publicizing and politicizing what is supposed to be a very private family matter,” Wharton said. “These clients are hard-working, tax-paying, upstanding members of the community.”
The AG’s office issued a template brief to all cases of same-sex couples attempting to adopt as legally married couples.
Pursuant to Rule 24(d)(1) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes files this memorandum addressing whether section 30-1-2 of the Utah Code, which was temporarily enjoined by a federal district court judge who declared it unconstitutional, currently applies to prohibit the adoption of _______.
The Attorney General’s position is that once the United States Supreme Court stayed the injunction issued in Kitchen v. Herbert, the Kitchen injunction halting enforcement of Utah laws banning same-sex marriage was no longer in effect, and Utah’s laws immediately were in force, which prohibits same-sex marriage and declares such marriages void, is now in effect. Therefore section 30-1-2(5) prohibits adoption proceedings based on same-sex marriages.
The AG’s office further notes that Kitchen may be upheld and, at such time, the couples may pursue an adoption.
Cindy Sanders, who along with her wife had a child she seeks to adopt, said, “our family is private.”
“My son, who is home for nap time, is the most important thing in my life,” she said. “So, while he is sleeping, I am here fighting for him.”
“Whatever you may think of us, the reality is, my son is here and a valuable part of this community,” she said. “Please do not harm my son.”
Kathy, along with her wife Michelle and their boys, Leo and Louis, said that they are a “family in every way.”
“All we want is the right to take care of our children, like all parents do, and to be legally responsible for them,” Kathy said. “We want them to have access to the same benefits that your children are entitled to. When I die, they should get my social security and my retirement. If I die today, they won’t.”
“Please don’t go out of your way to give my boys the message they deserve less, that their family isn’t worth protecting,” Kathy asked of the AG’s office.
Leslie Neebling noted that many of the speakers cried during their talks.
“There is not a more emotional topic than the protection and well-being of your children,” she said. “I ask others who may see this, how would you feel if you had to be here, standing up for your family?”
Casey and Riley Hackford-Peer, 8 and 12 years old, were the final speakers. Riley talked of his fears before his non-biological mother, Kim, was able to adopt his younger brother. He talked of his fear that Casey would be taken away from the family if his birth-mother, Ruth, died. Or that he and Kim would not be able to pick Casey up from school or visit him in the hospital in the case of an accident because they were “legal strangers.”
While the AG’s office noted that these adoptions could take place after the resolution of the Kitchen case, Gray noted that the case could very well go to the Supreme Court and take three years to be determined.