Editorial: Utah takes a nasty step against same-sex couples
Blocking adoptions is a cruel act
Published: April 13, 2014 07:08PM
Updated: April 15, 2014 10:10AM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Kimberly, left, and Amber Leary play "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" with their 15-month-old daughter on Thursday, February 27, at their home. They are among an unknown number of gay couples in Utah whose efforts to pursue second-parent adoptions have been thwarted by a stay of a court decision overturning the same-sex marriage ban and intervention by the Utah Attorney General's Office.

In rapid succession, the official Utah position on same-sex marriage has gone from mainstream conservative to merely retrograde to downright nasty.

In fairness, it is not only, or even primarily, Utah’s laws and policies that have changed. It is the rest of the world that has moved, with a speed seldom seen in such matters, away from a one-size-fits-all view of marriage to a live-and-let-live acceptance of what’s now called marriage equality.

It is disappointing that the state’s lawmakers and law enforcers have not yet caught up. But they will have to.

The arguments put forth Thursday by Utah’s hired legal eagles in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will soon be brushed aside, if not by that tribunal, then by the U.S. Supreme Court, and by the march of human progress.

Meanwhile, the state is engaged in a rear-guard action against families it does not like. It is trying to block the adoption petitions filed by at least two of the some 1,200 same-sex couples who were legally wed after Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled in December that Utah’s Amendment 3, banning same-sex marriage in the state, was unconstitutional.

The fact that the state is going out of its way to stop the legal formation of two — or more — secure, intact and loving families clearly puts the lie to the argument that the official defense of Amendment 3 is not, in lawyer-speak, “animus” against same-sex couples and their households, but a reasonable state effort to encourage the legal formation of, well, secure, intact and loving families.

The two adoptions that were approved through the normal process by two different judges came to a cruel halt when the Utah Department of Health refused to issue new birth certificates for the adopted children, documents listing both of the parents the children are really being raised by as their legal parents. The department then petitioned the Utah Supreme Court to support that refusal.

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.