Will Utah courts allow cohabiting adults to adopt?

The Deseret News has good coverage of family issues. The Sunday, May 15, edition included an excellent editorial by Dr. Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia, who summarized some of the research on child outcomes in cohabiting households.A mother and father provide the optimal environment in which to raise children.

He notes that such settings are, on average, more unstable and less safe for children than homes where parents are married to one another. He notes a recent Arizona law giving a preference to married couples in adoption placements. Utah has a similar law.

Dr. Wilcox also noted a recent decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court striking down that state’s adoption law. The law prohibited adoption placements with cohabiting couples. Utah was the first state to enact such a precaution, and it relied heavily on the kind of research Dr. Wilcox writes about.

It seems likely that activist groups, sensing blood in the water from the Arkansas decision, will attack the Utah law in the Legislature (as they have in the past) and in the courts. The court noted that under the adoption law a cohabiting couple “must chose [sic] either to live a life of private, sexual intimacy with a partner without the opportunity to adopt or foster children or forego sexual cohabitation and, thereby, attain eligibility to adopt or foster.”

Rather than accepting the wisdom of requiring adults to provide the optimal setting for a child, even if this means sacrificing some of their own desires (a hallmark of parenting), before the state will place vulnerable children in their care, the court declared the law a violation of the “fundamental right to sexual intimacy in the home free from government intrusion under the Arkansas Constitution.” The implausibility of the ruling is obvious – an unwritten “right to privacy” has been bootstrapped into an entitlement to acquire children without disciplining personal behavior.

We must hope that Utah courts will recognize that the state has a compelling interest in ensuring that children entrusted to its care deserve the most optimal placement possible and that adults’ interests should not be given more weight than a child’s right to have a mother and father wherever possible.