Archive for Friday, April 8, 2005

Marriage amendment raises adoption concerns

April 8, 2005


— With new language in the Kansas Constitution banning marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples, some gay-rights advocates fear they will soon face legislative efforts to ban adoptions by gays and lesbians.

While no such proposal has been introduced, one could find some legislative support.

Voters' approval this week of a constitutional amendment on marriage did have supporters considering other issues, such as trying to reduce divorce.

But gay rights activists have worried for weeks that a bill to prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children would surface. Tom Witt, a field organizer for Equality Kansas, a Wichita gay rights group, said Thursday that he expects such a proposal next year.

"They're going to start talking about the rest of their agenda in more detail," Witt said. "They're going to start stripping us of our right to form families."

Several conservative legislators on Thursday said an adoption bill hasn't been discussed. But Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, said she would support a ban. Asked whether such a bill might be introduced, she said: "I wouldn't be surprised."

"Are you going to be a practicing homosexual and teach that to the children?" O'Connor said. "As far as two men or two women living together as homosexuals, I don't think we should be putting children into that, not on purpose, not as the government."

The state doesn't allow adoptions by unmarried couples, though unmarried individuals can adopt and serve as foster parents. The state doesn't typically ask whether someone is gay or lesbian, said Mike Deines, spokesman for the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

However, a ban on adoptions by gays and lesbians would follow arguments that traditional marriages create the best environment for children, said Mathew Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, an Orlando, Fla., group that opposes same-sex unions.

If legislators agree, Staver said, "Then we need to have policies that reflect that policy belief. Homosexual adoption clearly doesn't reflect that belief."

But even conservatives could be wary of such a proposal. Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, an attorney, said courts already can decide whether adoption by a gay or lesbian is in a child's best interest, case by case.

"To put a blanket prohibition there would on its face be suspect," he said. "It's almost like saying a single parent can't adopt."

But Journey said amendment supporters should consider backing a proposal to create so-called covenant marriages, in which the spouses agree to premarital counseling and that getting a divorce will be more difficult.

Supporters of the idea see it as an antidote to no-fault divorces. And Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, said he plans to research divorce laws to see whether they can be rewritten to discourage ending marriages.

O'Connor has other ideas, too. She suggested that divorced parents who fall 60 days or more behind on child support payments should automatically be placed under house arrest and required to wear electronic ankle bracelets to monitor their movements.

Meanwhile, some clergy who supported the amendment said they're going to work with other churches and their congregations to help couples and young families preserve their marriages.

"We do have a lot of work to do there," said the Rev. Joe Wright, senior pastor of Wichita's Central Christian Church.

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