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Posted on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

Ann Arbor-area lawmakers propose legislation to expand rights of adoptive gay parents

By Juliana Keeping

021411_NEWS_2nd Adoption Bill_MRM.jpg

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, surrounded by a group of mainly mothers, speaks Monday at the Washtenaw County Administration Building in downtown Ann Arbor, where he announced a second-parent adoption bill.

Melanie Maxwell I

Gay couples’ legal rights as parents would be expanded under proposed legislation, Ann Arbor-area lawmakers announced today.

Under the state’s current adoption laws, only a single person or a married couple can adopt a child. Second-parent laws in Michigan already allow a step-parent to adopt a biological or adopted child of his or her current spouse. House Bill 4249 would expand those rights to same-sex couples and others.

“Gays and lesbians don’t have the same rights as heterosexual couples,” said Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, the sponsor of the bill, responding to a question on expected criticism of the proposed legislation. “I think it’s discriminating and there’s no legal basis for it.”

The gay partner of a child’s biological or adoptive parent can’t legally make medical decisions for the child. And the children aren’t legally guaranteed benefits like health insurance, Social Security, and financial security from both parents. Gay couples can’t legally marry in Michigan.

If a gay couple's relationship ends after they have agreed to have a child together, the non-biological or non-adoptive parent has no legal right to see the child, said Stephanie Atkinson of Pittsfield Township.

She and a former partner had a child using a sperm donor before the relationship ended, but Atkinson’s partner was the biological mother. Atkinson said she was allowed by her ex to maintain a relationship with their daughter for a time, but she hasn’t seen the child in five years.

“I love my daughter to this day and I hope when she’s 18 I can see her again,” Atkinson told a crowd of about 20 people who gathered with lawmakers Monday afternoon in the Washtenaw County Administration Building lobby, 220 N. Main St., to announce the bill.

The bill would also extend rights to other groups. A grandparent raising a child alone, for example, could share legal parenting rights with another relative, should a court find that it was in the best interest of the child.

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, is also sponsoring a complementary bill in the Senate. If passed, it would not apply retroactively to individuals in situations like Atkinson’s, Warren said.

Warren said it’s time for the state to stop “shutting the doors” to parents who are financially and emotionally able to support a child. She sponsored a version of the bill in her previous role as a state representative, but it never got off the ground.

Warren said support waned during the 2009-2010 election season.

The lawmakers and those in attendance said second-parent adoption isn’t about gay marriage — it’s about kids and the stability that two-parent households can offer.

“I’m not asking for acceptance. What I’m asking for is for my son to have two legal parents,” said Renee Brodie of White Lake, who came to the event to support a friend.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said via e-mail he would review the proposed bill.

"This is certainly legislation we would be open to review and discussion on.  We would want to see in what form it is passed from the House to our chamber. But we would give it a thorough discussion with our caucus."

This story has been updated with a comment received Monday afternoon from Sen. Richardville. Stephanie Atkinson's name has been corrected in this story.

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter.



Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

The issue of parenting must not be combined with the issues that relate to marriage. The two central characters of Holy Bible could be described as adopted children. Moses grew up as an adopted child. Joseph and Mary cannot be viewed as the biological parents of Jesus. A child always exists as an individual, with individuality and hence is not truly related to the two individuals who may have established a married relationship. If Jesus and Moses are adopted children, the nature of marital relationship of the adoptive parents poses no concern.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:47 p.m.

One aspect that I have not seen discussed is the fact that when the Washtenaw County Circuit Court got out of the practice of approving adoptions by unmarried couples it was due to the fact that Chief Judge Archie Brown re-assigned such pending adoption cases to himself from Judges Francis and Shelton, who had been routinely approving such adoption requests by unmarried couples. Brown is no longer the chief judge - Donald Shelton is - so the same situation that prevented Judges Francis and Shelton from continuing to approve such adoption requests no longer exists. Judge Shelton has full control over admnistrative assignments of cases and there is nothing - correct me if I am wrong - from hearing - and approving - such adoption applications inthe future. It seems to me the local adoption bar of the Washtenaw County Bar Association would be the ones who could provide the legal impetus to "test the waters" whether a pre-2002 scenario could be in store for the LGBT community.

Dog Guy

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, surrounded by a group of mainly mothers--yes, they do appear to be mainly, but doesn't pointing that out violate the guidelines?


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

Federal, State, County, or Municipal Governments have absolutely no business telling who can and cannot get married and who can and cannot legally adopt a child. Ok I take that back. Government should be responsible for ensuring that persons unfit to care for a child (Abusers, molesters, etc.) cannot adopt children.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

I would not attach too much importance to the gender identity of the parents who may like to adopt a child. I define man as a physical, mental, social, moral, and spiritual being. The identity such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, religion, culture, nationality, and citizenship mostly invlove the man as a physical being. Parenting involves man as a social being; the social skills, social instincts, and parental instincts shape this behavior. Children need a home to grow, they need to feel safe, protected, and loved. We need to verify the abilities of persons seeking to adopt a child and ensure that they meet the social expectations of parental tasks and responsibilities.

David Cahill

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

It's a positive sign that Sen. Richardville is at least willing to consider the bill, rather than damning Irwin to eternal perdition for suggesting equal rights in this area.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

Which means that Sen Richardville needs to be defeated in the next election, if he keeps folks like Mr Irwin waste the legislature's time with bills like this one under discussion.

David Briegel

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

builder, you're wrong again. It's called freedom. And dogpaddle answered you quite accurately!


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Mr Briegel You currently enjoy your 'freedom' because of a set of lines, rules, called the Constitution. Perhaps you would rather do away with that wonderful document? Society must absolutely live under a set of laws. In this case, we must define what a family is. You propose a familiy with no limit, or definition whatever. That, my friend, is most certainly not called freedom. I won't say you are wrong, as you are so quick to say. What you meant to say, I think, is that you Think I'm wrong. Otherwise you become the all-knowing powerful one.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Not only is Ms. Nation speaking the truth. think about all the children out there who need loving homes. How can people who claim to be "Christian" think it's a good idea to keep more children in group homes and foster care when there are willing, able, deserving and more than capable prospective parents out there (same gender as well as opposite gender)? Let qualified people and couples adopt! Period! And as someone else rightly said, keep your religion in your home or church where it belongs.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

Religion belongs everywhere the person is. You cannot 'keep' your religion at home anymore than you can leave your brains at home.

Bertha Venation

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

I know a lot of LBGT couples who make better parents than some of the heteros.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 6:17 p.m.

And, I know plenty of LGBT adults who are horrible parents, and have ended up in jail for child abuse. You post proves nothing.

David Briegel

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

Builder, Free citizens decide what a family should be, not some mythology. Otherwise those citizens aren't free, they are subjects of the mythology. sh1 and Ghost have that "pro-life" (really anti-choice) accurately described. Substitute Budhism for Christian God and see how that works for you. You want freedom from big govt. Free citizens want freedom from mythology! You seem to be all about drawing lines. You might wish to consider freedom.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

Mr Briegel A world without lines is called anarchy, not freedom. And, your 'belief', is that religion is mythology. Your belief is called secular humanism. That is a kind of proto religion, because it espouses beliefs just like any other religion.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Regardless of the argument or the outcome of this bill, God forbids a homosexual lifestyle and compares it to ALL sexual immorality. Unfortunately, the laws of God and many laws of the land are being changed for the acceptance of worldly ways.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

Hey Scooby, Church and State are suppose to be separated. Keep your religion out of my government and I'll keep mine out of yours. Hugs and Kisses.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

Your God maybe. Not mine. You don't get to decide, happily.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

You don't live in a theocracy. You live in a representative democracy. It's an important distinction.

David Briegel

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:45 a.m.

OK, let's draw the line at 1 or more citizens who may comprise a family. Citizens, equal under our constitution and laws. If all other criteria are met, what is the problem? How will you discrimate now?


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 11:56 a.m.

Mr Briegel You see, that is no line at all. Not even close. By your metric, we could have a commune of fifty citizens who comprise a family. And, what are the 'other criteria'? Threre's some sort of a line there, huh? Any more specific?


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:15 a.m.

Bravo!!! A family is a family is a is love.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:47 a.m.

Chase Ingersall. You are holding 2 children in your picture. What if you had no legal rights to them? What if you died and they were not entitled to social security benefits? What if you could not secure health insurance through your employer for them? What if you split with their mother and had no right to custody or even visitation? It is about the kids.

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

limmy: Then I would hope that someone had not undermined their effort to achieve those statutes by publicly waving the red flag and thereby marshaling all of those who might oppose the legislation. Specifically the adoption laws could probably have been quietly amended to reflect neutrality. Also, the laws and standing appellate ruling from state to state are to written with "best interest of the child language". With me you win if despite the orientation of the adults, it is the best option for the kids. But you lose with most everyone if you make the issue about the "rights" of the adults, over the children.

Basic Bob

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

@limmy, If people were half as concerned about the millions in this state that don't have health insurance while their parents are still alive, that problem would be solved. But this conversation is not about sticking up for poor children at all, it is about custodial rights for non-parents and the ability to scam group insurance plans into paying for non-dependents. After all, if they are poor AND gay, they can't afford a lawyer or doctor visits. All the Ann Arbor progressives have completely forgotten about social justice for the racially and economically disadvantaged, the people that really need someone to step in for them. Now it's like the Pink Floyd song: "Share it fairly, but don't take a slice of my pie"

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

Mr. Ingersoll wrote: "If you are really serious about the bill and not just paying back a political constituency, you don't wave a red flag and videotape a press conference that is going to gin up the conservative constituencies of every legislator who are not elected primarily by votes from the city of Ann Arbor and the city of Ypsilanti." So, according to Mr. Ingersoll, someone who wishes to be a state legislator, the way to proceed with potentially controversial legislation is to try to get it done on the sly so that no one notices? An interesting philosophy, that, from a prospective legislator. Glad to know in advance that that is how you'd operate. Top Cat wrote: "Unemployment at 14%, a budget gap of $1.8 billion and Mr. Irwin and Ms. Warren obviously don't have enough to keep themselves busy." So can we safely assume, Top Cat, that in 2006, when the state's economy was spiraling downward, that you thought Prop 2 was equally silly and a diversion? Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

I seldom agree with either Macabre Sunset or with Braggslaw. On this I agree with both of them. Proof the apocalypse is near? Good Night and Good Luck

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 5:44 a.m.

You've said that a lot recently. I happen to have political opinions that don't fit into neat little red and blue boxes. Therefore those of you who are hard-core Republicans or Democrats are going to find common ground with me once in a while. In this case, I side with the group seeking equal opportunity under the law. Note that equal opportunity does not necessarily mean equal outcome, a fallacy of the far left.

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:21 a.m.

If you are really serious about the bill and not just paying back a political constituency, you don't wave a red flag and videotape a press conference that is going to gin up the conservative constituencies of every legislator who are not elected primarily by votes from the city of Ann Arbor and the city of Ypsilanti. I guess these legislators can now say that they attempted to pay back the LGBT organizations that contributed to their campaigns, but frankly, they have probably set it up so that their bill never makes it out of committee. Personally - I'm ambivalent because my siblings and I had a horrible experience with a homosexual parent and a comparatively positive experience with a homosexual step parent.

Basic Bob

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:44 a.m.

When a married couple have a child together, they both have rights based on simple biology. However, when one brings a child from a previous relationship into a new relationship, there is not the same biological parent-and-child connection that the law protects. This should never be undone! If the two parents had either stayed together or had an amicable breakup, this would not be an issue. But they couldn't work things out themselves. Now it is suggested that we give them legal standing to ask the government to intervene on their behalf. If you need to get a judge involved, it is no longer a healthy relationship for the child. Let it go.

Basic Bob

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

@johnnya2, Sperm donors and rapists do not have parental rights. Neither should occasional houseguests.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:14 a.m.

So a sperm donor should have equal rights? How about if the child is the product of rape or incest? Simple biology says they have those rights according to you.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

Point 1: Female-Male couples are constantly getting judges involved with issues related to their biological children. So I don't understand your point. When done right, a judge can help determine what's best for the children. Point 2: Sometimes gay couples plan their having children together and are both involved through most of the process. In the case of a lesbian couple, though, only one parent can carry the child during pregnancy. But I don't see how why it should diminish the rights of the other involved parent. Point 3: There are also cases where gay couples adopt children. In fact there are many cases of gay couples adopting children for which it was difficult to find others willing to adopt them. Point 4: You confuse genetics with *being* a parent. And by doing so you diminish the important role many good people -- straight, gay, as part of a couple, as an individual -- have played in the lives of children they adopted and cared for.

Top Cat

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

Unemployment at 14%, a budget gap of $1.8 billion and Mr. Irwin and Ms. Warren obviously don't have enough to keep themselves busy.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

/Grammar fail *your should be *you're


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

Top Cat, I'm assuming that your equally outraged by the social changes, like redefining rape to the old 'common law' definition, being considered in Congress over job creation?


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

Well,both Mr Irwin and Ms Warren are pandering to the Ann Arbor's large left-leaning and homosexual community. This will ensure their reelection. That is what they are all about, they want to make sure they get reelected.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:08 p.m.

Here here. This hits the nose right on the button. So many real problems in this State and time is wasted on non-productive issues. Fix the economy first. Then worry about a very small number of feelings.

David Briegel

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

What a bunch of silly mental gymnastics! Either people have rights and freesoma or they don't. You can tie whatever color bow you want around the animosity directed at our fellow citizens but you will never change the fact the there are people who wish to deny our (god given) rights and freedoms to their fellow citizens. Judge Brown included! They will try to compare the love of two people and the desire to parent to the silly examples given by builder. Just imagine if a future society attempted to deny rights to Christians. Oh My.... Oh, I will defend whatever silly rules you wish to have in YOUR church or YOUR home. Just stay out the business of denying rights and freedoms to our fellow citizens because of YOUR mythological beliefs!

Bertha Venation

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

You are SO Right David. VERY well said!


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:18 a.m.

Mr Briegel You may call my examples silly, but very quickly two posters (see the replies) evidently don't think so. Right now the line stands at one male, one female. If that line is erased, then it has to be redrawn somewhere. Just where is that? Liberals are famous for pushing the limits, crossing the lines, expanding the acceptable morays. They are miserable for defining any limit acceptable past the point of where they are currently trying to cross.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:58 a.m.

@David Briegel: The ruling by Judge Archie Brown was covered by the New York Times and generated much attention in the LGBT community. Attempts were made in 2004 by the local gay and lesbian community to recruit a candidate to run against Archie Brown in his re-election bid but no local attorney wanted to run. In 2010, the same community promised campaign funding to a challenger to run against Brown and dozens of local lawyers were contacted for recruitment against Brown in another re-election bid, but no one wanted to be on the ballot against Brown. There have been documented abuses in family law cases by the local circuit court (see <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> but but little has been accomplished to change this despite counter-efforts.

Basic Bob

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

But you would willingly reduce the rights and freedom of the birth parent in favor of their estranged partner. That is well beyond silly.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:37 a.m.

&quot;You can tie whatever color bow you want around the animosity directed at our fellow citizens&quot; speaking of animosity do i detect a little animosity toward organized religion with their &quot;silly rules&quot; and &quot;mythological beliefs!&quot;?

David Briegel

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:26 a.m.


Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

I'm a practicing Christian. I believe the state should be in the secular &quot;domestic union&quot; business not the &quot;marriage&quot; business. I think a &quot;religious marriage&quot; should qualify with the State as a &quot;domestic union&quot; but from a legal standpoint it shouldn't be the only thing that qualifies.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

Marriage: Defined as the union of one man and one woman. Period. For those who don't agree, then draw the next line. Two females? Two males? Two females and one male? Two males and one female? Two males and three females? Two transgendered females, one male and one person who hasn't yet made up their mind? So there's the challenge. Draw the next line.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:18 a.m.

Defined that way by you. I see no reason why I should care how you define marriage. You aren't the boss of me.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

The line is drawn at a simple place. Any ADULT HUMANS, who want to get into a LEGALLY BINDING contract with any other party SHALL be allowed to do so. Why do right wing nuts have an issue with that? If two gay people get married tell us how that effects YOUR marriage? By the way, here are the people AGAINST gay marriage; Newt Gingrich (3 wives, left one on her death bed), Rush Windbag (on his 4th wife, so he is obviously about the sanctity of marriage), Mike Cox (known adulterer), Larry Craig, (he of the wide stance), John Engler (on wife number 2), Ronnie Reagan (another divorced man who believes in the &quot;sanctity&quot; of marriage), John McCain (divorced), John kasich (divorced), Bob Barr (divorced), Bob Dole (left the wife who stood by him through his war injuries, so now he can take boner pills with wife 2). These people are classic hypocrites. If you do not want a same sex marriage, DONT HAVE ONE. Stay the hell outta my bedroom. You can call it anything you want, but your position is bigotry plain and simple. As for adopting kids, why should what parents do in the bedroom matter? I have no idea about my heterosexual parents sex life and do not want to. I was adopted by my father. He had equal rights to see me as much as my mother.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

Any and all of the above, as long as it's all consenting adults. Is that a problem?

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 12:54 a.m.

this is about adoption/parental rights not marriage


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 12:45 a.m.

God Bless Maura Corrigan!


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

Curses upon Maura Corrigan! (Moderators note: if InsideTheHall can call for blessings, I should be allowed to call for the opposite. Equal time for opposing viewpoints, after all.)


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

I am sad to learn that the god you believe in hates children. Your god would disallow some children to receive health insurance benefits from one of their parents. Your god would disallow some children to receive Social Security benefits from one of their parents. Your god would disallow some children to be legally entitled to support from one of their parents should the parents split up. Your god would disallow some children to have a right to maintain a relationship with a of parent (who comforted them, supported them, helped them feel better when they were sad or scared, helped them get better when they were sick, helped them to explore and understand the world around them, helped them to laugh and have fun, and helped them in countless other ways) should the parents split up. Why does your god hate children?


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

Washtenaw County used to be the only one of the state's 83 counties where courts would allow unmarried couples to adopt. Specifically Judges Nancy Francis and Donald Shelton permitted these adoptions via creative interpretation of state adoption statutes. In 2002 this practice abruptly ended after Chief Justice Maura Corrigan, a Michigan GOP inner circle member, applied pressure to then Washtenaw County Chief Judge Archie Brown, an Engler appointee, to halt the practice of these 2 judges. Brown told Shelton to stop, but Shelton replied that Brown's jurisdiction ended with administrative court matters and he had no business telling Shelton how to interpret law. Brown responded by re-assigning all adoption cases of Shelton and Francis to himself and dismissing them. . In the end Brown's actions were upheld. The results of Brown's conduct were devastating to many LGBT couples who were well along in the adoption process and spent thousands in legal fees in reliance of the past rulings .


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 12:17 a.m.

Bravo Parents are parents regardless of biology

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

I'm glad we're making progress on this front. What happened to Atkinson should never happen to any parent. For her sake and the sake of her child.