Patrick Holt, his spouse and their two children have been together as a family for years — and now they hope Arizona will make it easy for them to make it official.
“We’re in a bit of limbo right now, trying to figure out what the next step is,” said Holt, who is the legal parent of the couple’s 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, both adopted from foster care.
The children have lived with Holt and David Dryden for most of their lives. But they knew that, should something happen to Holt, Dryden might have to fight for legal standing to keep custody of their children.
With same sex marriage now legal in Arizona, Holt hopes they can easily add Dryden’s name to their children’s birth certificates.
“This is a huge ordeal for us,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Holt has been trolling the Internet over the last couple of weeks, trying to find out what might prevent them from becoming a legally recognized family now.
Hopefully, nothing, said Claudia Work, a family law attorney in Phoenix who specializes in helping lesbian and gay families. Under Arizona law, Work, said, anyone who is married to a parent can adopt their spouse’s child, as there’s no gender-specific language in the provision.
In other areas, however, the language will need to be modified, she said. Arizona currently says that a husband and wife can adopt a child, Work said — for clarity and equity, that language needs to be changed to “a married couple.”
“It’s going to be a wait and see on whether anybody is going to try to enforce the heterosexual-specific language,” she said.
Holt and Dryden were married last December in Utah, and so they are now legally married in Arizona as well.
“Hopefully it’s just as simple as, ‘Here’s our marriage certificate and now we need birth certificates that reflect that,’” said Holt, an associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Theater, Film and Television.
Before same sex marriage became legal in Arizona last month, Holt and Dryden were poised to pay an attorney to help Dryden — an art director with Safari Club International — be recognized as the other parent “in the most legal way we could,” Holt said.
“Now we are not using an attorney because it should be as simple as going down to the courthouse and having this done,” he said. “It should be zero cost at this point.”
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble wrote in his director’s blog this week that the state’s office of Vital Records will now release death certificates to spouses in same gender marriages.
But what’s less clear, Humble wrote, is birth certificates. State officials are researching statutes to determine whether it will now be legal to put both parents’ names on the birth certificate, regardless of gender, he wrote.
Previously, some-same sex parents felt they had to leave Arizona in order to secure their legal rights as parents. States like California have long had what’s known as “second-parent adoption” laws where a same sex parent can legally adopt a partner’s biological or adopted child.
Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., said Arizona and a number of states have strict adoption laws that give preference to married couples.
“With marriage equality now in those states, same-sex couples must now be treated the same way as any other married couple,” she said.
“Until this becomes a more resolved and understood issue, certainly same-sex couples should continue to look into second parent or step-parent adoptions, just to provide the best protection possible,” she said. “We’re very confident that, in the long run, all of this will be resolved.”