A proposal to let gay parents adopt children together in Louisiana was rejected Tuesday by a Senate judiciary committee, a move expected to kill the bill for the legislative session.

Senators on the Judiciary A Committee voted 3-1 against the bill, siding with opponents from Catholic, Baptist and other church groups who argued the adoptions would encourage immoral behavior and violate the spirit of a voter-approved constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"What these children will learn from structures which are not moral or spiritual will only hurt them,'' said Willie Wooten, a minister and founder of Gideon Christian Fellowship in New Orleans.

 

Supporters of the bill by Sens. Ed Murray and J.P. Morrell, both Democrats from New Orleans, said people should be encouraged to adopt children and gay couples could offer loving homes to children who otherwise might live in group or foster homes.

"I see nothing of any substance that says that an unmarried couple, whether they be heterosexual or gay or lesbian, cannot be good parents,'' said Arnie Fielkow, head of the New Orleans City Council who has adopted two children with his wife. "I would urge the committee to think about the kids, irrespective of your political philosophy or your beliefs on social values.''

Louisiana law allows married couples or a single person to adopt a child.

If a single person adopts a child and is in a relationship whether straight or gay the partner in that relationship has no legal parental rights, even if the partner is involved in raising the child. Gay couples aren't allowed to marry in Louisiana and can't legally adopt children together.

The bill would have allowed two single people to jointly adopt a child.

Supporters included the Louisiana chapters of the National Association of Social Workers and the American Civil Liberties Union and the gay rights group Forum for Equality Louisiana. Opponents included the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the conservative Christian group Louisiana Family Forum and Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The debate was emotional.

Kelly Bryson, of New Orleans, choked back tears as she asked lawmakers to back the bill so she could legally adopt a child she is raising with her partner. Bryson adopted one of her sons, William, when she lived in Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, but she's been unable to adopt the second child, Jeremy, since she moved back to Louisiana. She said without the legal adoption of Jeremy, she can't make health decisions for him and he doesn't have inheritance rights.

"Families come in many shapes, sizes and colors,'' said Carmen Weisner, with the social workers association.

Louis Husser, pastor of Crossgate Church in Robert, urged the committee against changing current law, calling the bill social experimentation on children.

"What's going to stop us from moving the standard later for a convicted felon to adopt children? The ACLU would defend them. Or a polygamist or a pedophile?'' Husser said.

The only vote for the bill came from Murray, D-New Orleans. Voting against the bill were Sens. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge; Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, and Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe. Committee chair, Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, didn't vote.

Louisiana is in a federal court battle with two gay men who received approval to adopt a child in a New York court. The Louisiana Office of Vital Records refused to issue a birth certificate listing the two men's names as parents of the Louisiana-born child. A federal judge and a federal appeals court have ruled against Louisiana.

Sen. Buddy Shaw, R-Shreveport, had a bill Tuesday that attempted to rewrite Louisiana's birth certificate laws for adopted children. But Shaw shelved the bill after Quinn and others on the committee questioned the attempt to change statute retroactively to influence the federal case and said the change would conflict with the federal ruling.

Senate Bill 129 can be found at www.legis.state.la.us.

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