Bill expands adoption
It would allow 'second parent' to get legal rights
Steven R. Nickerson © News Debra Johnson, who has two children with her partner, Barb, waves to supporters after testifying Thursday for the adoption bill. "I am here for my kids," said Johnson, who worries about what would happen to the children if something happened to her.
By Alan Gathright, Rocky Mountain News March 9, 2007
The sponsor of the bill says it's a common-sense measure to help children of single parents.
Focus on the Family says the bill is a back-door effort to legalize adoption by gay couples.
On Thursday, a House panel sided with sponsor Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder. House Bill 1330, dubbed the "Second Parent Adoption Bill," swiftly advanced on an 8-3 vote in the Health and Human Services Committee.
"More than half of children in the United States are in nontraditional homes, like a single mom or single parent or with a grandparent," Madden, House majority leader, said Thursday.
"This bill would allow more Colorado children to have two parents," she said. "Children don't choose their parents, and society shouldn't put up obstacles to two-parent homes."
Under current state law, only single people (gay or straight)or married couples can adopt, Madden said. That bars cohabitating couples (gay or straight) from adopting.
HB 1330 would allow a child's adopted or birth parent to support adoption by a second parent.
The bill has been condemned by conservative religious groups, including Focus on the Family, who call it a thinly disguised effort to legalize adoption by gay couples.
"All the high-minded discussion of 'protecting children' and 'parental responsibility' is merely a smokescreen for the true intent of this legislation: paving the way for homosexual adoption," Jim Pfaff, president of Colorado Family Action, was quoted as saying on the Focus on the Family Web site Wednesday.
He said the bill ignores the wishes of Colorado voters, who last year overwhelmingly defeated Referendum I, which would have legalized domestic partnerships and gay adoption.
This is Madden's third attempt to get the bill passed. Earlier efforts died in committee when Republicans controlled the legislature. With Democrats in charge, Madden is confident it will reach the desk of Gov. Bill Ritter, who has indicated he would sign it.
Adoption specialists testified that current restrictions in state adoption laws hamper gays and heterosexuals alike, including grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Often, relatives are raising a family member's children but can't provide them with health insurance coverage unless they adopt the children. But they can't adopt if the child's biological mother and father refuse to renounce their parental rights.
"In my opinion, this bill protects the best interest of kids," said Cynthia Newkirk-Noah, associate director of The Adoption Alliance, a nonprofit adoption agency. "It offers protection and peace of mind to both the parent and to the children."
At the hearing, Madden said the bill also would prevent abortion, for example, in the case of a teen who becomes pregnant but can't support her child.
She cited the example of a 16- year-old Pueblo girl whose baby was denied health insurance coverage under her parents' policy.
Under the bill, the teen wouldn't have to renounce her parental rights in order for her parents to adopt the baby and provide health coverage.
During the hearing, Judi von Gaia told how after her son, Brandon, was born 17 years ago, she and her female partner moved for 18 months to Washington state, where it was legal for his nonbiological parent to adopt him.
"We were concerned that he could be ripped away from us, if I were to die . . . and taken away from his other parent," she said.
Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial, warned that the bill was a troubling step toward broadening the traditional family structure.
"I don't think it's an accident that the traditional family structure has served not just our society but civilization over the eons so well," said Swalm, who voted no.
What about nontraditional families?
Colorado singles (gay or straight) or married couples can adopt. Cohabitating couples cannot. House Bill 1330 supporters say it would update the law to serve children in nontraditional families. Here are some examples of legal obstacles under existing law:
• A pregnant single teen doesn't want to abort or give her baby up for adoption. If the teen's parents want to help raise the baby, however, insurance firms can deny the infant health coverage under the parents' policy. The only way the girl's parents can adopt their grandchild and provide health coverage is if the teen renounces her parental rights. The bill would allow the teen to choose a parent (or aunt, uncle or grandparent) to become a second adoptive parent, while retaining her own parental rights.
• A lesbian gives birth or adopts and her live-in partner works to support the family. Currently, the partner can't adopt the child. If the birth mother dies, her parents could fight the nonlegal mother for custody based on Colorado law protecting grandparents' visitation rights. The bill would help avoid a court battle by allowing the biological mom to choose her partner to be an adoptive parent.
• Grandparents have raised their granddaughter, 5, because the mother has substance abuse issues. The grandfather's health insurance won't cover the girl because the grandparents cannot adopt her unless the birth mother gives up her parental rights. If Grandpa dies, the child won't get his Social Security. The bill would allow the widowed grandmother, worried about who will care for the child if she dies, to choose another adult daughter or son to adopt the child.
• A single woman adopts a girl in China. If the woman dies before appointing a child guardian in her will, the child could end up in foster care. The bill would allow the adoptive mother to designate a sibling or other relative to become the second adoptive parent.
Sample of gay adoption laws
• Arizona: Permits single GLBT* adoption. Does not clearly prohibit joint gay adoption. Second-parent adoption unclear.
• California: Permits single GLBT and joint adoption. Second-parent adoption allowed.
• Colorado: Permits single GLBT adoption. Does not clearly prohibit joint gay adoption. Second-parent adoption not allowed.
• Florida: Prohibits single and joint gay adoption.
• Illinois: Permits single GLBT and couples adoption. Second-parent adoption allowed.
• Michigan: Permits single GLBT adoption. Prohibits joint adoption. Second-parent adoption unclear.* Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Source: About.Com
gathrighta@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5486