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ACLU threatens to sue county attorney over gay adoption

Apr 16, 2015

Arizona Republic

ACLU to sue homophobic Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery

Michael Kiefer, The Republic | 7:01 p.m. MST April 15, 2015

The ACLU calls Montgomery's refusal to help same-sex married couples adopt discriminatory.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona sent a letter to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery Wednesday threatening to sue if he does not drop his policy of not affording legal assistance to same-sex couples seeking to adopt.

Last week, Lenora and Leticia Reyes-Petroff, who were married in California in 2013, called Montgomery's office to take advantage of a program that offers free legal services for adoptions. However, they were told the program did not apply to same-sex couples.

Lenora was trying to adopt Leticia's biological child, which the two have been raising since his birth. Arizona state law did not recognize same-sex marriages until after a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last fall. The law also did not allow other than married couples to adopt jointly.

But the Reyes-Petroffs assumed that they would be allowed to do so after the 9th Circuit ruling bestowed the rights of marriage on same-sex couples. When they contacted the county attorney's office and were turned away, Lenora posted a complaint on Montgomery's Facebook page. He responded that the 9th Circuit ruling applied to marriage licenses but not to adoption.

Montgomery reiterated his argument the next day in a formal statement after The Arizona Republic published a story about the refusal.

Montgomery had also supported a bill in the Arizona Legislature that would allow his office to stop offering legal services to adoptive couples, but it was vetoed earlier this week by Gov. Doug Ducey, who said, "I want to see adoptions done legally into loving homes with loving families."

A same sex couple is taking their fight to County attorney Bill Montgomery after giving birth

On Wednesday, ACLU legal director Victoria Lopez sent a letter to Montgomery on behalf of the Reyes-Petroffs, calling Montgomery's decision a "discriminatory policy (which) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment."

"Arizona same-sex married couples enjoy the same rights and privileges as opposite-sex married couples," Lopez wrote.

"The MCAO's continued enforcement of any policy to deny adoption services to same-sex married couples that are provided to heterosexual married couples will result in litigation," she wrote.

Montgomery's public information officer, Jerry Cobb, said that Montgomery had not yet seen the letter.