Thursday, May 11, 2006

Drozda Plans Gay Adoption Ban

Indiana's Adoption Act instructs us to consider the "best interests of the child" upper most in making any decision concerning an adoption. Indiana courts have interpreted the law to permit single people and couples, both straight and gay, to adopt a child as long as that critical standard was meant. But Sen. Jeff Drozda wants to take that decision away from the courts, at least as it applies to gay parents. He wants the legislature to pass a law that will ban gay parent adoptions, and he plans to introduce such legislation next year, just as he did unsuccessfully in 2005.

When the 2005 legislation was considered, it remained unclear whether Indiana courts would interpret the adoption law to permit adoptions by same-sex parents. Indiana courts had permitted a gay individual to adopt a child, and it had permitted a second parent adoption where the child had previously been adopted by a gay parent alone. While Indiana's Court of Appeals has consistently came down on the side of gay parental rights in general, Indiana's Supreme Court has dodged answering the question directly. Many legislators believed the Supreme Court would overturn the previous rulings of the Court of Appeals, negating the necessity of legislation.

In a split 2-1 decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled that Indiana's Adoption Act allows unmarried, same-sex couples to adopt children. In this case, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter's office argued that no such right existed in the Adoption Act, even though the attorney arguing on behalf of his office agreed that the statute was silent on the issue. Today's Star article notes that Carter has until Monday to decide whether to appeal the Court of Appeals decision. Drozda doesn't want to wait on the Supreme Court to decide. He thinks lawmakers no best who should adopt children.

I was interviewed by the Star's Mary Beth Schneider about the prospects of gay adoptions becoming an issue in this election. As the side bar to today's story indicates, I believe it is more likely to become an issue if the Supreme Court takes up the issue and decides it before the November election. You won't be surprised that I told her I think of Drozda's legislation as being mean-spirited. I pointed out to her that gay parents often adopt children nobody else wants to adopt. Schneider reminded me of a similar legislative effort by Rep. Woody Burton (R-Greenwood) a few years back. As it turned out, Burton's timing wasn't the best. A highly publicized case surfaced where a gay parent had been denied custody of a child in favor of a straight parent because of the gay parent's sexual orientation. Later, the straight parent sexually abused the child.

As for the issues' impact on the election, as I told Schneider, I believe the issue will backfire on Republicans if they attempt to use it as another divisive wedge issue. Voters want to hear about pocketbook issues, such as how to reduce gas prices, alleviate the growing property tax burden, and find good paying jobs to keep new college graduates here in Indiana. Interposing this issue in the election is nothing but a diversion from issues voters really want their legislators to address. I also told Schneider I thought the gay marriage issue would likely be used again in this year's election by the Drozdas because its supporters need to get a vote in the next General Assembly in order to get it on the ballot in 2008.

Whatever happens, it is clear that Drozda intends to supplant Sen. Pat Miller's place as the wingnut in charge of the Christian right's social agenda in the Indiana Senate. Voters in Drozda'a district could turn on him however. He represents many affluent suburbanites in Hamilton County and concerned manufacturing workers in Howard County. Neither group's priority is to ban gay parents from adopting. The GLBT community should help remind Drozda's constituents of his misplaced priorities.

The issue reminds us of how important the courts have been to the GLBT community in Indiana. While the legislature gets a big fat F when it comes to gay civil rights, Indiana courts earn a B based upon their rulings to date. One of my Democratic friends reminded me that was due in no small part to the judges appointed by Evan Bayh while he was Governor. It is quite true that Bayh appointed many judges during his 8-year tenure, and they have proven to be quite fair for the most part on matters pertaining to gay civil rights.

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