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A bill that would have allowed second-parent adoptions for unmarried couples, including gay and lesbian pairs, fizzled in a Senate committee Monday morning.
By a 5-1 vote, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee tabled SB62, which would allow a legal parent of a child to designate a second, adoptive co-parent. Utah law prohibits anyone who is living in an unmarried, cohabiting relationship from adopting or fostering children. Married couples and single individuals may adopt.
Julie Gainer, a Sandy physician, told the senators she is the biological mother of a 4-week-old "miracle" whom she would like her lesbian partner of 10 years to adopt.
"I am an adult yet I cannot appoint a second adult to be a [legal] parent to my child, because I am a single cohabiting person with my partner," Gainer told the committee. "I do not have the option to marry her in this state. … My daughter will not have the protections afforded by a second parent if I die."
In Utah, there are 2,900 children being raised by same-sex couples, according to a recent analysis of U.S. census data by the Williams Institute at UCLA.
Members of the Senate committee expressed concerns about the stability of unmarried relationships and preserving current policy that promotes placing children with a married mother and father.
"My own personal belief is that marriage should be between one man and one woman. ... I also believe that children are better [off] with married couples," said Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay.
Jones said she had received more phone calls and e-mails from residents of her district against the bill than in favor.
Only Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, supported advancing the bill, which is sponsored by Minority Leader Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, to the Senate floor for consideration.
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, said SB62 would gut Utah's adoption policy, allowing any unmarried couple to live apart so that one partner could adopt a child and then later petition for the second partner to adopt, too.
"Where does this all lead? Well, it leads to the slippery slope that we've talked about so many times the slippery slope to [gay] marriage that happened in California," Ruzicka said at the hearing, referring to the California Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex marriage in 2008. The ruling was overturned by voters' Proposition 8, but is now being litigated in federal court.
Utah has a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.
A majority of the Senate committee would have to agree for SB62 to be reconsidered by the panel. Romero said he would be open to hearing suggestions from committee members on possible changes to the bill that would gain their support.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, is running an identical bill in the House, HB108. It has not been scheduled for a committee hearing.