- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Democrats in the Arizona Legislature are renewing efforts to repeal a law requiring judges to give preferences to married heterosexual couples in adoptions.

But Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing back, refusing to allow amendments on bills that would remove the language.

Legislation introduced early this year in both the Senate and House revoking current law giving preferences to a husband and wife over others in adoptions never received hearings. But Democratic lawmakers aren’t giving up.

In the Senate on Tuesday, Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, tried to add to the child safety bill an amendment removing the adoption language. But he was rebuffed. Farley said another Senate bill and two House bills have been held to avoid the same amendment.

Farley says Republicans are afraid of being forced to vote on a hot-button social issue that lacks backing from a powerful lobbying group at the Legislature, the Center for Arizona Policy. He and other backers of the repeal say the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage makes giving preferences to heterosexual couple over gay couples illegal.

“They know they can’t defend a vote to keep this discriminatory language in statute. But if they vote to change it, then (the Center for Arizona Policy’s) Cathi Herrod will come after them,” Farley said. “So they don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to vote on it. They don’t want to debate it.”

House Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough led the charge to stop Farley’s amendment, saying it wasn’t procedurally allowed. Senate President Andy Biggs also fought against the amendment.

“The rule is the rule, game over,” Yarbrough told The Associated Press. “Offer a germane amendment and we will have a delightful debate about the merit of the question of whether a child is better served being adopted by a man and a woman than by a single parent, a same sex-parent or people from Mars.”

“My personal opinion? I think that the meritorious, academic, quality peer-reviewed literature demonstrates most clearly that a child is better served if they are able to have a married man and woman as parents,” Yarbrough said. “Now, does that mean there aren’t a whole bunch of other people doing a great job? Doesn’t mean that at all.”

House Democrats are struggling with similar issues as they try to revive the legislation, Farley said, where two bills that could be used to change the law have failed to advance.

According to the Arizona Capitol Times, Rep. Rebecca Rios, a Democrat who is the minority whip, wants to offer an amendment removing the language as part of another child safety bill, but leaders in the House have blocked the bill from a floor vote to avoid debate on Rios’ amendment.

“They clearly do not want me to put their members in a position that they would have to vote on this,” Rios told the newspaper.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey last year vetoed a bill that would have freed county attorneys from having to assist in non-contested adoptions. That legislation was pushed by Maricopa County Bill Montgomery, who said he wanted to free up resources but also adopted a policy of not helping gay couples adopt.

Ducey said he wanted to see more adoptions, especially for the nearly 20,000 children now in the state’s care, regardless of whether the parents were gay or straight. “I want to see adoptions, I want to see adoptions done legally into loving homes with loving families,” the governor said a year ago.

Farley said the governor’s statements mean members of his own party know he would approve of the change.

“It’s flat-out bigotry, and there’s no place for bigotry in Arizona law,” Farley said of the existing law.


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