Proposed Bill Would Let Unmarried Couples Adopt

Donna Schiavone asked this question: If two unmarried people can accidentally have a child, does it make sense that two people can’t purposely adopt one, especially given all the children in foster care?

The Omaha woman signed her name to a petition calling on senators to pass a bill (LB380) introduced by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard that would allow unmarried qualified families to jointly adopt.

It would open more possibilities, including same-sex couples, for children waiting for a family. It would decrease the number of children in foster care and the amount of time spent in foster care. And that would save taxpayer money, the petition said.

The petition, with 1,913 signatures, was presented Friday to state senators, along with 2,061 postcards with personal messages.

Howard said she hadn’t heard of so-called second parent adoption, which allows a second unmarried parent to adopt a child, until she met a young family in her district that had faced multiple problems because of the way Nebraska interprets a state adoption law. It requires a spouse to sign the adoption petition, and the courts determined that to mean parents must be married to adopt.

“The fact that children cannot be assured the emotional and financial benefits provided by their second parent is intolerable,” Howard said.

The bill is stuck in the Judiciary Committee and is not prioritized. The legislative session is scheduled to end April 17.

Two other bills that deal with discrimination issues also have yet to be debated. They include a bill (LB485), introduced and prioritized by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, that would prohibit discrimination by an employer based on sexual orientation. It would apply to employers having 15 or more employees, those with state contracts regardless of the number of employees, the state of Nebraska, government agencies and political subdivisions.

The bill failed to advance from the Judiciary Committee on a 4-4 vote.

A bill (LB385) introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist would prohibit discrimination in placement of children in the foster care system. That bill was advanced from the Judiciary Committee on a 5-1 vote.

Conrad said the Legislature has important issues still to address this session, including tax policy, state budget adjustments, prison reform and Medicaid expansion.

“And we will make sure to attend to our obligations,” she said. “However, we cannot, we must not, neglect critical civil rights issues.”

Conrad said the issues and LGBT Nebraskans are not going away.

“They pay taxes. They serve in the military. They run businesses. They work hard. They contribute to our society,” she said. “And they deserve equal treatment under our laws.”

Tara Obner of Omaha said she is the second mother to the two children she has with her partner and has loved them as much as any legal parent.

But she worries about keeping her parental rights if anything would happen to her partner, she said.

“I want my children to have the security of two legal parents,” she said.