SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Office of Recovery Services has no legal standing to collect child support from a lesbian parent who is no longer with the child under the state's current paternity law, the agency's director told a Senate committee Thursday.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, would change dozens of references in the Uniform Parentage Act to reflect legalized same-sex marriage. SB179 would change "man" or "woman to "person" and "father" to "parent," for example, in the the law, which deals with paternity and parental rights.
"This helps our office immensely in removing that barrier," Recovery Services Director Lisa Stockdale told the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday.
The committee voted 4-1 to move the bill to the Senate floor, amid opposition from the Sutherland Institute, Utah Families United and the Utah Eagle Forum.
"It's pretty hard to say a man and a woman when the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that it may not be a man and a woman that makes a marriage relationship," Hillyard said.
He said he didn't want to get into the same-sex marriage issue but wants to clarify the law.
"This really talks about the reality of (the Utah Office of Recovery Services) trying to collect child support for children," Hillyard said.
But Bill Duncan, director of Sutherland's Center for Family and Society, said the legislation goes way beyond the ability to collect child support.
"The bill changes our understanding of parentage in a very significant way," he said. "Our concern is that the bill now creates a presumption of parentage that is completely divorced from the biological reality that every child has a mother and a father."
Duncan said it would be broad change for a narrow result.
Jonathan Mann, of United Families Utah, said removing the words man and woman or mother and father from the law would teach children that mothers and fathers are replaceable. He said he's worried about the precedent it would set for the rest of Utah law.
The bill reflects a new reality that same-sex couples can get married and divorced, said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, opposed the measure, saying he's not wiling to "obliterate" common law terms in the Utah code. He said he prefers creating a separate section in the law to accommodate the new reality.
"To go back and just wholesale clear all these terms out of the long-existing code to deal with these marginal cases, I think, is just the tail wagging the dog," he said.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said she doesn't see anything offensive about being called a parent.
"If we are a state about accountability, children and families, then who cares what term we're using when in reality what you want is to protect the child," she said.