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NH House votes to allow gay couples to adopt together

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
N.H. House votes to allow gay couples to adopt together

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The House voted Wednesday to allow unmarried adults — including gay couples — to adopt children together. State law allows children to be adopted by married couples or single adults. Gay individuals can adopt, but same-sex couples can adopt in only six of the state's 10 counties because probate judges interpret the law differently. The 234-127 vote sent the bill to the Senate. Supporter Jayne Spaulding said current law is ''neither fair nor just'' because some courts allow the adoptions while others don't. The Bedford Republican said the bill is needed to correct an ambiguity. ''This bill is not about whether gays or lesbians should be allowed to adopt,'' said Spaulding, who noted a ban on gays adopting was lifted in 1999. Not just gay couples would be affected, she added. A brother and sister might want to adopt a younger sibling if their parents were dead, she said. Fremont Republican Dan Itse objected that the bill would allow same-sex couples to adopt as a couple — a debate the House will have when it considers pending bills to allow civil unions and same-sex marriage. Itse predicted the House will approve one of the bills, which would make the adoption bill unnecessary. ''This bill is premature,'' he said. Itse also noted that unmarried couples can split up without getting divorced, which means there is no court oversight of the child's welfare. ''This can make children the only legal tie between these two adults,'' he said. ''If the relationship dissolves, that child may be the only strand between two adults.'' Itse said unmarried couples are less stable than married couples. ''We have little control over families created naturally, but adopted families are created by the state,'' he said. ''We must strive for the highest possible standards.'' Salem Republican Marilinda Garcia said children do best with two parents who are married. But Rep. Eileen Flockhart said ''families come in all sizes and shapes.'' Flockhard, D-Exeter, said the law needs to be clarified so unmarried couples aren't hampered by such simple things as having only one parent legally responsible to make health care decisions or sign permission slips for children to take school trips. ''What if the legally responsible adult becomes critically ill?'' she asked. Flockhart pointed out that the adoption process won't change. ''It often involves a year or two years of home studies,'' she said. ''It is not casually moved into by a couple of roommates.'' Supporters also noted that the bill requires authorities to consider whether the couple live together, are economically interdependent and have a shared commitment to parenting. The counties that have allowed same-sex couples to adopt are Belknap, Carroll, Coos, Rockingham, Strafford and Sullivan. Probate judges in the other four — Merrimack, Hillsborough, Cheshire and Grafton — have not. Judges in those counties have said the law does not apply to same-sex couples because they cannot legally marry in New Hampshire. On the Net at www.gencourt.state.nh.us/hcaljourns/calendars/2007/houcal2007_21.html and www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XII/170-B/170-B-4.htm
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