Saying it's a simple matter of natural law, state lawmakers voted Thursday to give married couples preference in adopting children.
Nothing in SB 1188, approved on a 37-20 vote, prohibits a court from placing a child with a single parent or even an unmarried couple. But the legislation directs the Department of Economic Security and private adoption agencies to place a child with a married couple if all other factors are equal.
The approval came over the objections of several legislators who said there was no reason to believe that children always do better in such homes. But Rep. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, a sponsor of the proposal, said biology proves otherwise.
"I think the good Lord and Mother Nature have determined that it takes a man and a woman to create a new life,'' she said.
"That simply cannot happen between a man and a man or a woman and a woman,'' Burges continued. "And the good Lord has also determined that the best union is that of a marriage between a man and a woman.''
Rep. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, said his own experience as a single parent backs that up.
"As a man, I can never be a mother,'' he said.
"I can be as kind, as considerate, as thoughtful as I can be,'' Gray continued. "But there is something unique and special that the woman brings as a mother to those children. And there's something unique and special that a man brings as a father to those children.''
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said that is making an assumption he would not make.
"There are a lot of single people out there who would make amazing parents,'' said Campbell, who said he was raised for the most part by a single mother.
Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, said nothing in his vote denies that there are single parents who are doing a great job raising children.
"And my heart goes out to those parents ... who are doing tremendous work through no fault of their own, in circumstances they did not anticipate being,'' he said. "And I'm excited they have such devotion to their children.''
But he said the family is the "fundamental unit of our society.''
"Our family structure has been under attack for decades,'' Olson said, as have communities, churches and social institutions. "As they weaken, we weaken our society.''
Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, said one problem with the legislation is that that there are more children waiting to be adopted than there are married couples willing to adopt them. And he said the question of what is the best option for children should be left to judges and those who work with children.
"We are in no position to determine the compatibility of a child to a certain parent,'' he said.
While the legislation provides a preference for married couples, that would not overrule other factors that could be taken into consideration. That includes established relationships between the child and the prospective adoptive parent who may have been a foster parent or grandparent, as well as the ability of the adoptive family to meet the safety, social, emotional, physical and mental health needs of the child.
And for children who are 12, their wishes also must be considered.
The Senate already has approved similar legislation.