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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 17, 2006

The nation's most hostile adoption ban

Bill now in the Ohio House also bars LGBT foster parents

Columbus--A bill circulated last year to ban adoptions and foster parenting by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Ohioans was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives on February 9.

House Bill 515, called the �Adoptive and Foster Children�s Protection Act� would amend Ohio law to �prohibit an adoptive or foster child from being placed in the private residence of a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender person.�

It would also deny adoption or foster parenting to a household where any �individual who is a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender individual� lives--including another child.

The measure would require courts to determine the sexual orientation and gender identity of prospective parents, and directs the Department of Job and Family Services to adopt rules and procedures to carry it out.

While it doesn�t call for the immediate removal of children already placed in foster care with LGBT parents, it does require the state to de-certify those homes when it does its biennial evaluations.

If passed, the bill would make Ohio the most hostile state in the nation to LGBT parenting.

Currently, six states limit aspects of LGBT adoption and foster parenting, but none to this extent.

Florida has the only law outright banning gays and lesbians from adopting, but not foster parenting. It came from Anita Bryant�s 1977 anti-gay �Save Our Children� campaign, and was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004.

Mississippi, Utah and Oklahoma do not allow same-sex couples to adopt. An Arkansas regulation bars gays and lesbians from foster parenting, but not adoption. North Dakota allows adoption agencies to refuse placement based on religious objection.

Openly gay civil rights attorney Scott Greenwood of Cincinnati said the Ohio bill violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.

�Under this legislation, Dick Cheney and his wife would be prevented from adopting,� said Greenwood, referring to the vice-president�s lesbian daughter. �Maybe that�s a good thing for other reasons, but not this reason.�

Greenwood said this is a legislative attempt around the �best interest of the child� standard used by Ohio courts for adoption and foster parenting. That standard was established by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1990 in the case In re the Adoption of Charles B.

In that case, which was about a gay man with HIV adopting a child, the court explicitly said that sexual orientation cannot be used as the basis to approve or deny adoptions, and that being gay, per se, does not mean bad parenting.

Bill was touted by anti-gay groups

The proposed Ohio measure was first suggested during an April 2005 Statehouse lobbying effort by six anti-gay Christian groups headed by �ex-gay� Greg Quinlan of the Pro-Family Network of Dayton. It was one of eight items on the group�s agenda.

Quinlan and Christian Coalition of Ohio chair Chris Hartkop organized that event. Their groups were joined by Citizens for Community Values of Sharonville, the Eagle Forum of Ohio of Stow, Family First of Springboro, and the Institute for Principled Policy of Groveport.

According to Quinlan at the time, this bill was written by Erik Stanley of the Liberty Counsel in Orlando, Florida, an anti-gay group describing itself as �advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.�

Quinlan and his wife Cheryl Myers both claim to having been �cured� of their homosexuality through religious conversion, and getting others to do the same has become their livelihood.

Quinlan�s initial touting of the bill suggested that Rep. Tim Schaffer of Lancaster would sponsor it. Schaffer later told this reporter, �At this point, we�re researching it, that�s all.�

Sponsor began on the fringe

Schaffer is one of nine co-sponsors of the present bill, led by its sponsor Ron Hood of Ashville.

The remaining eight co-sponsors are Tom Brinkman of Cincinnati, Linda Reidelbach of Columbus, John Willamowski of Lima, Derrick Seaver of Minster, James Hoops of Napoleon, Danny Bubp of West Union, Mike Gilb of Findlay and Stephen Buehrer of Delta. All are Republicans, and all have legislative histories hostile to LGBT people at every available opportunity.

Hood said he believes children raised by gay parents have increased risk of physical and emotional problems and might question their own sexuality.

He has had a previous term in the Ohio House, representing the district that includes Canfield from 1995-2000. He was elected to represent his current district in 2004.

Hood has sponsored a number of bills believed to be extreme and fringe at the time he proposed them, but which years later have been adopted in total or in part by the Republican-controlled legislature. These include bills allowing private prisons, the repeal of prevailing-wage requirements for state contractors, against collective bargaining for state employees, and requiring that public schools teach �evidence for and against� evolution.

Most notable was Hood�s 1998 bill legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons, and repealing all bans of firearms in motor vehicles and watercraft. Most of what Hood proposed was passed by the House in 2003, coincidentally the same day as the �defense of marriage act.�

Brinkman is suing Miami University to end its policy of providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners of employees. He also opposed Ohio�s belated ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the post-Civil War measure ensuring equal protection for all citizens under the law.

Willamowski and Gilb ran the 2003 DOMA hearings before the House Civil and Commercial Law Committee.

Reidelbach, who is retiring, is a darling of Christian conservatives, and the conduit for much of their anti-gay political activity.

Speaker says bill won�t move�for now

House Speaker Jon Husted of Kettering controls the House legislative agenda and calendar. According to his chief of staff Scott Borgemenke, this bill is not currently a priority.

Borgemenke said the bill has not been referred by Husted to the Reference Committee, which decides which standing committee bills will be assigned to.

�Usually, they go there within 24 hours,� said Borgemenke. �This didn�t go at all.�

At press time, the bill remains unassigned.

�And I don�t see it going in the near future,� Borgemenke said.

Borgemenke said Husted relies on �informal feedback from members� of the Republican caucus to determine which bills move and which ones don�t.

�There have been no calls [from Republican members] begging us to move or to stop this bill,� Borgemenke said.

That�s what they said about DOMA, too. When it was first introduced in 1997, Republican leaders did not move what became the �defense of marriage act� citing similar reasons at the time. The bill then passed on a �fast track� in 2003.

At press time, none of Ohio�s anti-gay enterprises, including Quinlan�s, have the adoption ban bill featured on their websites, which they all did with DOMA at the time it passed.

The bill is perceived to be ploy designed to energize the Republican voter base before a state election likely to be dominated by GOP fundraising and ethical scandals. The ploy was successfully used to support George W. Bush in 2004.

�It�s the wedge issue for the next election,� Susan Truitt of the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy at Capital University in Columbus told the Associated Press. �It�s the get-out-the-vote for the right wing nuts.�

Straight allies are �appalled�

Equality Ohio director Lynne Bowman said the statewide LGBT advocacy group has been working with state and local organizations �for quite some time� in anticipation of this bill.

Bowman said people are angry that the LGBT community is again being used as a political ploy.

�They are tired of having our lives used for political gain,� said Bowman. �They are energized and ready for a fight.�

Bowman said heterosexual allies of the LGBT community are �appalled.�

�I hear them say things like �This won�t go anywhere� and �They can�t do that�,� she said.

�Yes it will, and yes they can.�

�Our community never expected the DOMAs to go anywhere, either,� said Bowman. �There was no strategy in place up front and for the long haul� with the state DOMA law, nor the constitutional marriage ban amendment that followed it.

�This time, the strategy is to completely defeat this, whether it is now or six years from now,� Bowman said.

The bill�s introduction has not stopped the rumors that its proponents may try an initiative amending Ohio�s constitution to do the same thing. Such a strategy would move the Republican base to the polls, as did 2004�s �Issue 1� marriage ban amendment.

The marriage ban amendment became a voter initiative when the Ohio Senate refused to take it up.

�We are keeping our eyes open for a citizen initiative,� said Bowman.

According to the 2000 Census, 34 percent of female same-sex couples and 22 percent of male same-sex couples have at least one child under 18 living in their homes.

 

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