Friday, the Utah Supreme Court halted adoptions by same-sex couples as it weighs whether several step-parent/second-parent adoptions can be approved while the state’s marriage ban case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
The high court made the decision late Friday night, leaving LGBTQ parents and their families as vulnerable as they had been prior to the landmark marriage equality decision last December, when a federal judge ruled Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional.
Only married couples can jointly petition to adopt in the state and Utah bans second-parent and step-parent adoptions by same-sex couples. While 1,300 same-sex couples were legally married before the overturned marriage ban was stayed, pending appeal, several have applied for and been approved by district court judges for adoptions of their children who they are raising together. But the state has refused to recognize these adoptions and in one case, a judge ordered Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and two state health department officials to appear in court and “show why they should not be held in contempt for their willful disregard and refusal to obey the Decree of Step-Parent Adoption.” That’s when Reyes pleaded to the Utah Supreme Court to stop the adoptions for now while it makes a determination on this issue. The court agreed.
“What the Herbert Administration and the State Supreme Court have done in this instance is not only ignored the law and refused to recognize validly married couples in the state of Utah, but also targeted innocent children and prevented them from having the legal protections and security of both of their parents,” said Family Equality Council Executive Director, Gabriel Blau. “Prior to the marriage equality decision, Utah already prohibited joint adoption, second-parent adoption, and step-parent adoptions by same-sex couples. It also restricted foster parenting by LGBTQ people. These policies have continued to harm children and done nothing to strengthen families. In these latest moves, the only thing the Governor and the State Supreme Court have accomplished is denying children who are already being raised by same-sex parents the protections they deserve.”