Two opposing bills, both of which would set new precedents for adoptions in Louisiana, will be considered by state lawmakers in the coming weeks. Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, has introduced House Bill 738, which would amend the existing law on "intrafamily" adoptions. The law currently allows relatives of a child (other than the natural parents) to adopt the child under certain circumstances. Present law also allows only married couples and single individuals to adopt in Louisiana. If a single individual adopts, only one parent is listed on the child's birth certificate.
LaFonta's bill would allow a "second parent" to adopt and be listed on the birth certificate of a child of a single mother or father — and provide that secondary parent with the right to make medical decisions, the right to provide health insurance, and all other customary rights and responsibilities of an adoptive parent. It's a sensible bill with real potential to help children who have already experienced enough disadvantages in their lives.
Senate Bill 521 would do the opposite. Authored by state Sen. B.L. "Buddy" Shaw, R-Shreveport, SB 521 reworks a bill that failed last year. The bill would outlaw the issuance of a Louisiana birth certificate to same-sex parents, even if they are legally recognized as the child's parents in their home state. If SB 521 passes, a child born in New Orleans but adopted by a same-sex married couple in Iowa would not have both parents' names on his or her birth certificate, even though the child would legally be an Iowa resident with two parents in that state.
Conservatives love to rail against a government they say intrudes too much into the lives of American families. We can't think of anything more fundamentally intrusive than a state, under color of law, refusing to issue a valid birth certificate to a child's legal parents. Enacting such a law under the rubric of "family values" is intellectually dishonest — and cruel to adopted children.
Louisiana made itself quite clear on the issue of same-sex marriages and civil unions in 2004, when voters amended the state constitution not only to ban same-sex marriages (which already were illegal), but also civil unions between two people of any gender. Louisiana's marriage laws rank among the most restrictive in the country — unnecessarily so, in our view. Let's not compound a wrong aimed at adults by adding another aimed at our most vulnerable citizens: orphans and foster children.
We urge passage of House Bill 738 and defeat of Senate Bill 521.