Last edited: January 01, 2005

Will DCFS Become Bedroom Peeper?

Adoption Bill Puts Who’s Having Sex Into Question

Salt Lake Tribune, March 4, 2000
P.O. Box 867, Salt Lake City, UT, 84110
Fax: 801-237-2022

By Hilary Groutage, The Salt Lake Tribune

If Gov. Mike Leavitt signs legislation that prevents cohabiting adults from becoming foster parents or adopting children, case workers from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services will be left with the task of determining if applicants are having sex.

House Bill 103 prevents placement of children with a person who is "cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage under the laws of the state."

"Producing a marriage certificate solves most of the problem," said Scott Clark, an attorney and head of the DCFS board of trustees, which met Friday for the first time since the legislation passed.

But a marriage certificate is only an option if the couple is a man and woman. The fear, said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Stephen Clark, is that DCFS workers will presume unrelated adults who live together are having sex, even if they are not.

The ACLU’s Clark interprets the language of the law to mean the legislation does not require people to be married; it simply requires they not be having sex with a housemate. The dictionary defines cohabiting as living together as husband and wife or in an intimate relationship, or simply living in the same place.

"The requirement is they not be cohabiting. How is it the board intends to identify if people are in a sexual relationship?" he said.

Scott Clark, who is the adoptive father of more than a dozen children, said asking if the potential adoptive or foster parent is having sex with another adult who lives in the home is just one on a long list of intrusive questions case workers are required to ask.

"In the context of all the other things that relate to adoption, this is simple," he said.

The board expects to vote on the guidelines at its next meeting March 31.

For the first time, the DCFS board dealt with the legislation designed to codify its rule banning placement of children with unrelated, single adults. The board intended in January to extend the restrictive ban to placement of foster children, but delayed a decision until the end of the 2000 Legislature to see if bill HB103, sponsored by Rep. Nora Stephens, R-Sunset, would survive the session. The bill bans placement of children for adoption or foster care in a home where unrelated adults are cohabiting or involved in a sexual relationship.

Soon after the DCFS board passed the adoption rule last summer, the Utah ACLU chapter, a gay couple and a woman filed a lawsuit claiming the rule violates their civil rights. Tapestry of Polygamy, a support group made up of women who have fled polygamous marriages, filed a friend of the court brief, saying the ban is appropriate since it would keep children out of polygamous homes.

As long as the rule remains on the books, the lawsuit will move forward, said the ACLU’s Clark.

Leavitt has 20 days to sign HB103 into law, but opposition already is building. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will join the Utah ACLU, the Utah Equality Network and the Unitarian Universalist Church in a protest Monday at 6:30 p.m. on the steps of the Capitol.

The protest, being called "A Funeral for Utah Families," will include a candlelight vigil.

"This bill will deprive children of certain rights and privileges that derive from being part of a family – such as health benefits, inheritance right and Social Security death benefits from the adoptive parent," said Kerry Lobel, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

"And that’s not even taking into account the greatest deprivation of all – that children will be denied a place in permanent homes with loving parents," she said.

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