Utah works to update family laws after Supreme Court decision


Lawmakers have been examining ways to update existing marriage and family laws to provide equality to the LGBT community, but one adoption bill proposing preferential treatment to heterosexual couples will appear soon.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 file photo, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, gestures on the house floor at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Gay rights advocates say Powell's proposal to require Utah judges to favor heterosexual couples over same-sex couples in adoptions or foster care placements is blatantly unconstitutional. Powell says last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage doesn't stop Utah from preferring that a child have a mother and father instead of same-sex parents.(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, speaks at the Utah State Capitol. Gay rights advocates say Powell’s proposal to require Utah judges to favor heterosexual couples over same-sex couples in adoptions or foster care placements is blatantly unconstitutional.(Associated Press)

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, has been working on a new bill that would adjust adoption laws to include heterosexual marriages as a piece of criteria in determining the preference for adoption and foster placement. Though the bill is not available for full scrutiny at this time, it will be posted in the next couple days for review.

While this bill seems to be aimed at promoting traditional marriage values, Rep. Powell has said that the real idea is to get started on re-working Utah’s entire chapter on marriage and family laws. Still, opponents to the proposed bill have raised concerns about the constitutionality of adoption preferences.

Director of Equality Utah, Troy Williams, has been one of the strong opponents of the proposed bill. While little is known about the actual legal language, what seems to be most at issue is the apparent criteria that would place same-sex couples behind heterosexual couples for adoptions.

“Clearly this bill would be unconstitutional,” Williams said.

Williams described the idea as “a cynical effort to try and create a second-class category for same-sex parents.” The LGBT rights advocate also projected the bill would not pass, and if it did it would be followed swiftly by a lawsuit.

Powell recognizes the nature of this bill as being controversial, but described what he believes is an idea that would balance interests. One point Powell believes best serves the interests of the LGBT community is an amendment to enable same-sex parenting through surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization.

“What most people don’t realize is that it actually allows and facilitates same-sex parenting under our procedures,” Powell said.

Powell also spoke to the point of welcoming feedback in an open manner once the bill is published.

Williams addressed the claims of the bill’s efforts to facilitate same-sex parenting by citing a lack of effort to seek input from the LGBT community before moving forward to create the bill. Williams referred to the previous year’s Anti-Discrimination and Religious Freedom legislation as an example of people from various communities and corners of political interest working together. Williams stated that similar consideration has not been seen here.

With the recent Supreme Court decision, some issues for the LGBT community loom large as many states will have to adjust their existing marriage and family laws to accommodate changes.

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