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Lawmaker attempts to revive bill on interstate compact for father registries

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah state senator confirmed Monday that she will attempt to revive a bill intended to initiate an interstate compact to share information on putative father registries.

A substitute version of SB63 passed easily in the Utah Senate but was killed in a House committee Friday evening.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, introduced a similar bill last year. The bill was debated over the summer during the Legislature’s interim meeting and further refined this session with the help of Republican colleagues in the Senate, Robles said.

“I’m going to try to lift it out of (the) House Rules (Committee),” she said late Monday.

Robles said she believes the bill was mischaracterized as a measure to enhance fathers' rights.

“We’re not changing adoption law. We’re not changing the process of claiming paternity. The only thing we’re saying is can we share this information and people have access to this information,” Robles said.

In Utah, unmarried men who believe they may have fathered a child and want to start the process of preserving their parental rights can file a “Notice of Commencement of Paternity Proceeding” with the state Office of Vital Records and Statistics within the Utah Department of Health.

State Registrar Janice Houston, director of the records office, told members of the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee on Friday that attorneys call the office to inquire whether a putative father has filed notice.

“We give them positive or negative. We have no ability to contact the registrars of Pennsylvania, Colorado or any another state and ask them if the father is registered there. That is then the responsibility of the attorney and adoption agency to go through that process,” Houston said.

The proposed putative father registry would “piggyback on other processes we have automated. We have national groups through which we transmit this information,” she said.

The aim would be to make it easier to check putative registries across the country, Houston said.

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, who is an attorney, said he has handled a number of adoptions and dealt with putative fathers. He opposes the bill.

“The presumption of this bill is that putative fathers need more protection. My position is they do not. Utah law already gives adequate protection to putative fathers,” Nelson said.

Moreover, “the policy of this state is to encourage marriage. If a man has sex with a woman to whom he is not married, he assumes the risk that she could get pregnant and she could to go relinquish the child for adoption. It is not the responsibility of the state to pick up his problem and look out for his rights,” he said.

Nelson said he believes the bill will further complicate the adoption process.

“The law is already fraught with danger and conflict. This bill will only multiply the risk of error, so I am firmly opposed to this bill,” he said.

Robles said one of the goals of the legislation is to provide more clarity to parents entering adoptions to help protect them and adoptive children from disruption later in life. It also would help putative fathers who want to step up and take responsibility for children they have fathered, she said. Going to one source to obtain information about putative fathers would help adoption attorneys.

“This bill is about making people’s lives better by using technology to share information,” Robles said.

Marjorie Cortez


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