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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 16
Utah asks court to block adoptions by same-sex couples
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Utah asks court to block adoptions by same-sex couples

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In continuing fallout from Utah's same-sex marriage lawsuit, attorneys for the state have asked the Utah Supreme Court to block adoptions by two same-sex couples.

In petitions filed April 7 and April 9, the state's attorneys allege that Third District Judge Elizabeth A. Hruby-Mills 'abused [her] discretion' by approving an adoption for one Lesbian couple and ordering the agency to issue a new birth certificate for their child.

One petition asks the court to stay the order and the other requests a hearing on the validity of the adoption decisions.

Hruby-Mills approved the adoption on February 13, and the state office of vital statistics received a request for an amended birth certificate listing both parents on April 4.

The state's petition says Hruby-Mills' order violates 'the plain text of the Utah Constitution and Utah law prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriage.'

In another adoption, this one approved by 3rd District Judge Andrew Stone, state attorneys argue the judge 'erred' by recognizing the couple's same-sex marriage as valid.

The Office of the Utah Attorney General said in a statement that complying with the adoption orders would lead to legal confusion, because it would contradict the state's position in a federal marriage lawsuit now before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

'Without guidance from Utah's appellate courts, compliance with the court order [for adoption] before the federal courts rule is likely to create more uncertainty in Utah law and for Utah families,' the statement said.

Federal District Judge Robert Shelby ruled on December 20 that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Both Shelby and the Tenth Circuit declined to stay the ruling, and more than 1,300 couples were subsequently married before a stay was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would recognize those marriages as valid, but Utah state officials say they will not, at least not until ordered to do so by the Tenth Circuit.

Utah allows single parents to adopt children, and it allows married couples to adopt children, but it does not allow unmarried couples to do so. Allowing same-sex couples to adopt children jointly would tacitly admit they are legally married, the state fears.

Attorney Laura Milliken Gray, who represents several same-sex couples trying to do second-parent adoptions said Wednesday that her clients are 'floored and dismayed' by the state's 'extraordinary steps to undo the adoption that they believed in good faith was fully completed.'

'My clients, and others in their same place, feel as if the AG's office is pummeling them at this point by actively interfering with their private adoption cases and taking the outrageous position that the Department of Health can ignore a district court order,' Gray said.

In an April 11 editorial, the Salt Lake Tribune blasted state officials for trying to block the adoptions. 'In rapid succession,' the newspaper said, 'the official Utah position on same-sex marriage has gone from mainstream conservative to merely retrograde to downright nasty...

'The argument that those adoptions aren't legal because the marriages weren't legal stands on shaky ground. It also amounts to a totally uncalled-for slap at both the parents and the innocent children involved.

'The core of the many district court rulings allowing same-sex marriage is Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion holding, in the case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, that DOMA was an impermissible denigration of the many children who live in such households.

'Utah's state attempt to block these adoptions is exactly the kind of cruelty that Kennedy was talking about. And, if there is any justice, it will be another example the backers of same-sex marriage will use to prove that Utah isn't out to protect families, but to harm them.'

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