Our View: County attorney invites fight over who can get adoption help
A same sex couple is taking their fight to County attorney Bill Montgomery after giving birth
Bill Montgomery is taking the art of splitting hairs to a whole new level, one requiring high-powered microscopes and laser-thin blades.
There is no other way to describe the Maricopa County Attorney's indefensible stance in thwarting state law and refusing to help one married parent adopt her spouse's child. It requires a squinty reading of the law and an obstinate refusal to allow full marriage equality.
By Arizona law, county attorneys are required to "prepare the adoption petition and act as attorney without expense" to prospective adoptive parents.
Lenora Reyes-Petroff, who married Leticia Reyes-Petroff in California in 2013, sought the Maricopa County Attorney's help in legally adopting the child born to Leticia in early 2014.
But Montgomery is refusing. He argues that the federal court decision last fall allowing same-sex marriages in Arizona specifically addressed issues involving a right to marriage, but was silent on the right to adopt children.
Prospective adoptive parents "have no absolute right to adopt a child," he said in a statement Thursday, and thus the right to adopt is distinct from the right to marry.
As Montgomery sees it, he must wait until the Legislature that assigned him the duty to assist prospective adoptive parents specifies which prospective parents it was talking about.
The county attorney is inviting a nasty public fight over an issue that in every other respect is settled law. The term "full marriage equality" has no meaning if same-sex marriage partners can be denied state services.
Marriage law now makes no distinction regarding gender. Likewise, the statutes governing the county attorney's duty to help adoptive parents is silent as to gender.
It does not take a bold, expansive reading of the law to conclude full marriage equality means the law accepts married couples of any gender combination as would-be adoptive parents eligible for the county attorney's help. The plain meaning of the words will do.
Montgomery's record on marriage law after last fall's landmark court rulings had been exemplary. He provided sound, professional legal advice to county supervisors regarding changes in county practices to accommodate the new definition. There was no spurious playing to partisan animosities.
This denial of service threatens that record. Montgomery needs to reverse himself.