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Senators' decisons benefit kids, erode integrity of law

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary A Committee did the right thing in derailing a bill that would have confused detrimentally Louisiana’s consistent policy regarding adoptions, but unfortunately declined to go further to clarify that as it related to birth certificates.

The Committee deferred the amended SB 129 with only its author state Sen. J.P. Morrell, voting in its favor against three nays. The amended bill would have allowed unmarried couples to adopt; current law specifies that only a married couple, with that marriage defined by the Constitution as between one man and one woman, or a single man or woman can adopt.

The bill became controversial as its debate was framed in a way that would use it as a vehicle for state sanctioning of same-sex unions. As has become typical in these efforts at the Capitol, a number of specious arguments were brought forth that missed the entire point of why the state promotes and rewards marriage in its policies.

Perhaps the ultimate interest of any government that regulates policy in this area is to promote procreation and afterwards successful raising of children, for without the capacity provided by these future citizens the state will not have the resources to perform other necessary functions. Thus, the state subsidizes marriage, through various tax breaks, favorable legal treatment, etc., as defined historically and legally in Louisiana because that is the only kind of union that can produce children.

It also historically and legally has favored adoption for married couples, because it is consistently and universally acknowledged that parents in a married state have the best chance of successful child rearing on many indicators such as behavior, resources available, and the like. Again, this is a general proposition, as some married couples do a very poor job while some single people do a great job.

That is why the state allows adoption for single individuals as well, and why there is a vetting process for adoption, to do the best job possible in weeding out married couples who might bring that advantage to the request but whose lacking in other areas make them unsuitable for an adoption with a high chance of successful child rearing, and to allow for single individuals that appear capable enough the opportunity to perform this vital function.

So what would be wrong with two people not married raising an adopted child? Because it becomes legally confusing when the law already permits a single individual to do so and vests decision-making power about the child with that person. Why should two be specified when there is no legal bond between them in the state? It makes no logical sense for the state to confuse matters when one person has sole responsibility for the welfare of a child by then giving somebody unrelated legally to the person the same powers.

If that person desires, however, that decision-making authority in part or full could also be granted to another legally unrelated adult. Just a few minutes of searching on the Internet for the proper document under Louisiana law (such as a durable power of attorney), downloading, getting signatures, and a notary is all it takes (which demonstrates that fallaciousness of arguments that not to change the law would prevent this).

Understand that present law allows a single adult regardless of sexual orientation to adopt. Thus, given the facts, we must conclude that, because it is potentially detrimental to divide responsibility for a child between two unrelated adults that never jointly had custody as a result of a legal marriage (not to mention those detriments potentially from a standpoint of health and well-being of the child), efforts to allow this rest more on a political agenda than one that really looks out for the welfare of adopted children, verifying the wisdom of the committee’s decision.

Unfortunately, the committee proved too skittish to maintain the legal clarity when it prompted state Sen. Buddy Shaw to withdraw his SB 521 which would incorporate the state’s constitutional standard that a parent is either a married couple under state jurisprudence or a single individual and apply it to listing parents on state birth certificates of adopted children. This is under dispute where two males that identify themselves as homosexual who exercised a legal privilege in another state to recognize a union between them had one of them adopt a Louisiana-born child and want both their names listed on that certificate. Because of this litigation, the committee shied away from dealing with Shaw’s bill.

Hopefully, should the courts eventually see the proper reasoning and declare that Louisiana cannot be forced to violate its own law in an area left to states to regulate by the federal Constitution by following another’s conflicting law, a bill like Shaw’s will be passed. Fortunately, this also means that state Rep. Walter Leger’s HB 901 that would do the opposite that then would bring the Constitution and law into conflict should not also be considered this session, so there is good news to go along with the bad.

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