Summer 2003

Section Proposes ABA Policies on Second-Parent Adoption, PATRIOT Act

At the 2003 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif., the ABA House of Delegates will consider Section-sponsored proposals addressing joint and second-parent adoptions and the sunset provision of the USA PATRIOT Act.
The Section recommendation on joint and second-parent adoptions supports laws and court decisions that permit the establishment of legal parent-child relationships through joint adoptions and second-parent adoptions by unmarried persons who are functioning as a child's parents when such adoptions are in the child's best interests.
According to the Section's accompanying report, at least six million children in the United States are being raised in families in which unmarried or same-sex parents are the heads of households. In many cases, a second-parent or joint adoption is the only legal way such a child can establish a legal parental relationship with a second non-birth parent. In the absence of such a relationship, a child cannot claim financial support or inheritance rights from the second parent; is not entitled to Social Security, retirement, or state workers' compensation benefits if the second parent dies or becomes disabled; and is ineligible for health insurance or other insurance benefits from the second parent's employer. A child whose legal parent dies or becomes incapacitated also may be taken away from the second parent if no legal relationship exists between the child and the second parent.
A legal relationship also protects the child's right to financial support and a continuing relationship with the second parent if the parents separate. Typically, courts in family law cases attempt to guarantee ongoing contact between a child and both parents in order to avoid serious emotional harm to the child. In the absence of a legally recognized relationship, a child of unmarried parents often is denied ongoing contact with the second parent.
The PATRIOT Act proposal addresses concerns that the Act's so-called "sunset" provision, which provides that certain enforcement and surveillance powers authorized in the Act will expire on Dec. 31, 2005, unless re-enacted by Congress, may be made permanent.
The Section proposes that the ABA oppose any efforts to repeal the sunset provision, urges Congress to conduct a through review of the powers granted under the Act before expanding existing powers, and urges the Executive Branch to cooperate with congressional committees of jurisdiction to ensure that the committees receive all information necessary to carry out their oversight responsibilities.
The Section's accompanying report argues that effective legislative oversight of Executive Branch activities under the Act is critical to maintaining the constitutionally established balance of powers in our government, as well as the proper balance between national security needs and the preservation of civil liberties.
This proposal is one of several that the Section has proposed dealing with security and civil liberties issues since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Most recently, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in February 2003, the House of Delegates passed a Section-sponsored resolution urging Congress to conduct regular and timely rsight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and to adopt amendments to the statute to ensure that investigations do not violate constitutional requirements.
The full texts of the Reports with Recommendations are posted in the Section website at http://www.abanet.org/irr.

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