Monday, March 2, 2009

Bill would ban adoptions by unwed couples

Previous legislation specified gays By Janell Ross • The Tennessean • March 1, 2009 For Windle Morgan and Rod Bragg, parenthood began with a phone call. The state had an infant, 2 weeks old, 10 weeks premature, HIV positive and abandoned at a hospital. The child wasn’t expected to live long but needed 24-hour care and parental nurturing. Would they take the baby, asked the social worker who had evaluated and approved them for foster care. “That was a Friday. We garage-saled all weekend and picked him up that Monday,” Morgan said. The couple later adopted the boy. “Now we have this beautiful, healthy, happy, totally normal 18-year-old son. You tell me — what’s wrong with that?” Morgan said he and his partner were the first openly gay couple to adopt in Tennessee. If bills introduced in the Tennessee House and Senate this session succeed in the state’s new, Republican-dominated legislature, unmarried couples — gay and straight — could be barred from adopting. People on both sides of the issue say their primary concern is the welfare of children. But that’s where the agreement ends about who should and should not be able to adopt in Tennessee. The bills’ advocates say that Tennessee law was never intended to allow unmarried couples to adopt but that the state attorney general and Department of Children’s Services interpreted it incorrectly. It’s clear children belong in “traditional” families, they say. But those who oppose the bills say they would leave more children lingering in a state system that has made strides since a court ordered Tennessee to more swiftly connect eligible children with adoptive families. “Remember that children in foster care don’t typically have a line of people going around the block waiting to adopt them,” said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

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