Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Judge orders Attorney General Sean Reyes to explain actions on same-sex adoption decree

By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News

Published: Thu, May 15 7:25 p.m. MDT

 A 3rd District judge has ordered Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to explain the state's refusal to recognize a same-sex couple's legal adoption.

A 3rd District judge has ordered Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to explain the state's refusal to recognize a same-sex couple's legal adoption.

(sirastock, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

SALT LAKE CITY — A 3rd District judge has ordered Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to explain the state's refusal to recognize a same-sex couple's legal adoption.

Judge Andrew Stone summoned Reyes and two state health department officials to a hearing June 16 to "show why they should not be held in contempt for their willful disregard and refusal to obey the Decree of Step-Parent Adoption."

"The state of Utah is in open defiance of a valid court order," said Cliff Rosky, a University of Utah law professor and Equality Utah board member speaking for the couple and their attorney. "The parents have lost patience at this point and have said you're in contempt of court."

Utah Solicitor General Bridget Romano said the state is not ignoring Stone's order. The attorney general wants the Utah Supreme Court to decide whether the state can abide the adoption decree and not run afoul of the state law banning same-sex marriage.

"We don't believe that we can, and we're asking for that clarification," she said.

Kimberly and Amber Leary, who have been together six years, married and petitioned for an adoption during the brief time same-sex marriage was legal in Utah. They had spent three years planning for their daughter, who was born to Amber Leary and is now 18 months old.

Stone finalized the adoption on March 26, making them the legal parents of the child. But when the Learys asked the health department to amend the birth certificate with both their names, it refused on the advice of the attorney general's office.

"To have amended the birth certificates as directed by the court would have put the office of vital statistics in a position of having to recognize the marriages and to accord them government benefits, which they believe violates Utah law," Romano said.

Rosky said the court gave the attorney general's office, which took the position that all same-sex marriages in Utah are on hold, the opportunity to object to the adoption, but it declined.

Utah law is clear that after an adoption becomes final, no one can challenge it for any reason under any circumstances because of the disruption it would cause a family, he said.

"But the attorney general ignored that and has now gone to the Utah Supreme Court challenging the adoption, in fact suing the judge for granting the adoption," Rosky said.

Supporters of the Learys have called the state's action mean-spirited.

Romano said the judges are aware that the state asked the Supreme Court for guidance for what it's obligated to do with the adoption orders and comply with Utah law.

"The state is not seeking to undo any of these adoptions," she said, adding it presumes the parents are acting in the best interest of their children.

"It's not a personal attack on anyone. It's no more an attack on the judges than it is on these families," Romano said. "We respect the hardship and the state is certainly not taking this lightly."

Reyes, health department executive director David Patton and Janice Houston, state registrar and director of the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics, intend to comply with the Stone's order to appear in court, Romano said.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

Recommended
1. Liberty For All
Cedar, UT,
May 15, 2014

AG Reyes is fighting for the family not against anyone. The state is looking out for the best interest of the child. Every child deserves to be raised by their mother and father.

2. FatherOfFour
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT,
May 15, 2014

Liberty For All,

So you believe this 18 month old child should be taken away from her natural mother and placed into a foster program?

3. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
May 15, 2014

"Supporters of the Learys have called the state's action mean-spirited."

It is mean-spirited to make the above statement.

4. FatherOfFour
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT,
May 15, 2014

"Kimberly and Amber Leary, who have been together six years, married and petitioned for an adoption during the brief time same-sex marriage was legal in Utah. They had spent three years planning for their daughter, who was born to Amber Leary and is now 18 months old."

5. DanO
Mission Viejo, CA,
May 15, 2014

Liberty For All, regardless of what the State does, that's not going to change this child's living situation unless the State will be in the business of forcing parents to become heterosexually married.

What the child does deserve is the protection of being legally connected to both the child's biological mother and her legally-wed wife.