Ducey explains decision to veto gay-adoptions bill

Doug Ducey and Cathi Herrod

Gov. Doug Ducey and Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday he wants more children adopted and does not particularly care if the parents are straight or gay.

The governor said there are about 17,000 children in foster care. And while some will be placed back with their biological families, some will not.

“So the North Star for me is I want to see more adoptions,” the governor said.

“I want to see more kids in loving homes under the legal structure,” he continued. “And that’s just something I’m going to continue to be a legal advocate for.”

The comments followed Ducey’s decision Monday to veto legislation which would have allowed county attorneys to refuse to provide legal help to couples seeking to adopt. That decision followed disclosure that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery would not help a gay couple, insisting that the federal court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage did not give gays the same legal standing to adopt.

Ducey, talking Tuesday about the veto, said the sexual orientation of adoptive parents is irrelevant to him.

“I want to see adoptions,” he said. “I want to see adoptions done legally into loving homes with loving families.”

The governor’s stance puts him somewhat at odds with Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy and supporter.

“Social-science data still shows that children do best in a home with a mom and a dad,” she said.

And what if such a home is not available?

“My focus is on encouraging moms and dads to step up and meet the need,” Herrod responded.

But Herrod’s objections go beyond philosophical.

She points out that Arizona law specifically says that preference in adoption “shall be with a married man and woman.” And Herrod said the fact that gays can now marry in Arizona does not change that.

She said it will take a court ruling to give gay married couples equal standing with heterosexual married couples.

But Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who represented gay couples who won the right to marry in Arizona, said Herrod is legally off base.

“Constitutional rulings are to be applied consistently,” Pizer said.

For example, she said, if court decide women can’t be denied jobs tending bar also means that women cannot be denied other jobs, like physicians or bus drivers “unless there’s something different and relevant involved.” Pizer said that’s not the case here.

“We need not litigate each situation anew when there are no new issues to be resolved,” she said.

Herrod, also an attorney, was unconvinced.

“Adoption is an issue that’s separate from the definition of marriage,” she said. And that, said Herrod, means that straight couples are to be favored when a child is available for adoption.