Memphis, TN – February 17th is Equality Day in Tennessee and Senator Paul Stanley's Bill 78 happens to be the most talked about issue. Nicole Erwin has the story.
For the second year in a row State Senator Paul Stanley has filed a bill to make it illegal for unmarried couples to adopt. Senator Stanley says several groups have tried to make the bill a cultural issue, he says that is simply not the case. He says the best home for a child is in a household with a mom and a dad and that no one has been able to show any research to dispute that.
Ann Wrixon is the Executive Director of the Independent Adoption Center. She says the exact opposite of Stanley, that there is no research to show that marital status has anything to do raising a child. Wrixon claims one third of the families her agency works with are non-traditional, that includes single parents and same sex partners.
The adoption process can take months or even years to complete, Will Batts and his partner are six months into the adoption process. Batts is the Executive Director of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. He says Senator Stanley's bill, Bill 78, would interfere with hours of paperwork, thousands of dollars, and not to mention the straining emotional efforts he and other non-traditionalists have already put forth in their attempt to start a family. Batts says he and his partner have lived in Tennessee all their life and neither he nor his partner want to move, but if this bill passes and he wants to start a family, that is what he will have to do.
Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and author of "Adoption Nation," Adam Pertman, says Bill 78 is a part of a storm that is brewing, a backdoor policy towards banning homosexuals from being able to adopt. Utah and Arkansas have already passed similar legislation and Tennessee is trying to do the same. Besides the bill being anti gay, Pertman says it is illogical. The bill states unmarried individuals cannot adopt, but nowhere does it say they cannot foster a child.
Family Practice Lawyer Susan McKenzie says there is only one reason why the bill doesn't just flat out say homosexuals cannot adopt and that is because it violates the equal protection clause in the United States and Tennessee constitutions.
Senator Stanley says the bill will not affect private adoptions. For example if something happens to a parent and they can no longer take care of the child, they can leave the child under the care of a friend or family member. However, Ann Wrixon with the Independent Adoption Center says that is false, if the bill is passed it would affect private and state adoptions.
This is the second time the bill has been up for discussion. Tennessee now has a Republican majority, which means the likelihood of the bill's passage is that much greater. Senator Stanley says this is not a partisan issue, it is not a cultural issue, and it is what he and his constituency believes is best for the children.