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Adoption Agency Denies It Rejected Lesbian Couple

June 11, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

A Santa Ana-based adoption agency on Tuesday asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit in which a lesbian couple claims they were discriminated against for being a "non-nuclear" family.

The discrimination never took place, according to the motion filed by the Olive Crest Family Care and Adoption Agency, because the women withdrew from the process voluntarily. But even if they had been rejected, Olive Crest would have broken no laws, according to the motion.

"A policy which simply favors the placement of children with men and women who are in legally recognized and sanctified marriages is both fair and reasonable," argued the motion filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. "The stability and security of traditional marriage for the benefit of children is reasonably preferred over unsanctioned and legally unrecognized cohabitants, acquaintances or other companions."

Olive Crest, one of several private nonprofit agencies under contract with Orange County to provide foster placement and adoption services, was sued May 1 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Shannon Rose and Jane Wesley Brooks of San Diego. The couple alleged they were dropped unfairly from an adoption certification program because Olive Crest's policy gave preferential treatment to nuclear families, defined by the agency as legally married couples.

In their lawsuit, Rose and Brooks said they began the adoption certification process last July after being assured their sexual orientation would not be an issue. Several months later, however, they said a social worker told them they had been dropped from the program due to a new policy stating that the agency "prefers to place children in nuclear families."

On Tuesday, however, Daniel M. Livingston, an attorney representing the agency, disputed those facts. The couple were never dropped from the program, he said, but withdrew following a delay in processing.

"Why would we waste hours and hours certifying them if we didn't intend to continue the process?" Livingston said in an interview. "It has cost us thousands of dollars to process them -- why would we drop it?"

Martha Matthews, an ACLU attorney representing Rose and Brooks, has argued that private agencies performing functions -- such as adoptions -- on behalf of the state are subject to the same constitutional restrictions against discrimination to which the state must adhere.

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