Ducey ordered the policy change Wednesday evening, less than four hours after Arizona Capitol Times reported that DCS in February had quietly reversed a policy that had allowed married same-sex couples to jointly adopt or provide foster care for the roughly 17,000 children under the state’s care.
Federal courts declared Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in October, and DCS began allowing married gay couples to be jointly authorized to serve as foster parents and adopt wards of the state. But Attorney General Mark Brnovich directed the agency to reverse course in February.
“With 17,000 children under the state’s care, we need more adoption in Arizona, not less. That’s why I feel strongly – as I have said many times before – that all loving families should be able to serve as foster parents and adopt,” Ducey said in a written statement issued Wednesday night.
“I have also said my administration will follow the law. Practices have been brought to my attention that do not match those priorities,” the governor added.
The governor instructed DCS to immediately ensure that all legally married couples – including same-sex couples – be allowed to jointly serve as foster parents and adopt.
“All children deserve a loving home, and under my watch, I’m committed to making sure government encourages that,” Ducey said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona claimed the policy change at DCS violated the equal protection aspect of the 14th Amendment, and had threatened to sue the department if they did not begin to again issuing joint foster and adoption licenses to married same-sex couples.
In advising the agency to cease issuing joint licenses, Brnovich cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in January to review several same-sex marriage cases heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit.
“That a law may change in the future does not release DCS of its duty to follow current law,” ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Victoria Lopez wrote to Brnovich and DCS Director Greg McKay on Feb. 24. “Marriage equality is the law in Arizona and state agencies must uphold and follow the law.”