House committee backs allowing same-sex couples to adopt children
DENVER – Same-sex partners and other unmarried people would be able to adopt children together under a bill backed by a House committee Thursday.The House Health & Human Services voted 8-3 to send the measure (House Bill 1330) to the full House for debate. Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, joined with Democrats in supporting the bill, which would allow two non-married people, including a grandparent and another relative, to adopt a child under a process called second-parent adoption.Current state law allows gay individuals to adopt a child, but not their same-sex partners. Married couples are already allowed to adopt each other’s children as stepparents.House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, said children with two legal parents are more economically secure and have a greater chance of getting access to health insurance and benefits if one of parent dies.”Children don’t chose their parents and society shouldn’t put up obstacles to a two-parent home,” Madden told lawmakers. She failed to pass the bill out of committee twice before when Republicans controlled the legislature.No opponents showed up to testify against the bill. One critic, Jim Pfaff, president of Colorado Family Action, said he knew the measure would be voted out of committee and focused on doing media interviews and radio appearances to speak out against the bill instead.He said his group, one of 35 state-based public policy groups with links to Focus on the Family, would continue to oppose the bill at the state Capitol and also let its members know about the bill. He said Colorado voters elected a Democratic-led Legislature and governor last fall but they also rejected Referendum I, a civil unions proposal that would have also allowed gay couples to adopt.”The people of Colorado spoke on what they think on issues like this and I think they’ll remember this come 2008,” Pfaff said.Roberts, a lawyer, said she has worked with same-sex couples on estate planning and said the current law doesn’t ensure that their children will remain with them if the other dies.Judi von Gaia of Denver said she and her lesbian partner have had the peace of mind that their son would be taken care of if one of them died or if they broke up. After he was born 17 years ago, they temporarily moved to Washington State, which allows second-parent adoption, so they could both adopt him. She said officials there changed his Colorado birth certificate, listing his two mothers as legal parents, and this was honored after they returned to Colorado.Without the legal change, she feared that, if she died, their son would be taken to live with her relatives whom he didn’t know rather than remain with her partner.”She was there for every bit of it. We made the decision together and she was at the birth,” van Gaia said.Theresa Spahn, executive director of the state’s Office of the Child’s Representative, the state agency that represents children in court, also backed the bill.Cindy Newkirk-Noah, associate director of The Adoption Alliance, said she thinks the bill will help grandparents or other relatives who step in to raise a child. While most families have already discussed who will care for a child if a parent dies, she said the bill would make those arrangements official.”It’s more than a discussion, it’s an appointment,” said Newkirk-Noah, who didn’t attend the hearing.She said her agency has placed more that 2,000 children with adoptive parents, including gay people, single parent and grandparents.”Our primary concern is finding homes for children, and we want to make sure all children have a plan that will benefit them,” she said.Three others states already have similar second-parent adoption laws. The District of Columbia and seven other states also allow similar second-parent adoptions under court rulings. Trial courts in some jurisdictions in 15 other states also allow it, said Pat Steadman, lobbyist for Equal Rights Colorado, which supports the bill.Colorado is one of four states where appellate courts have rulled that second-parent adoption isn’t allowed under current law.
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