Ex-Arizona DCS Chief: AG's Advice On Joint Adoptions, Fostering Was Unsolicited

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 11:44am
Updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 12:38pm
(Photo by Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services)
Mark Brnovich

The former head of the state's child-safety agency said Monday it was Attorney General Mark Brnovich and not he who precipitated a decision to stop allowing married gay couples to jointly adopt or become foster parents.

Charles Flanagan said the Department of Child Safety began extending the same rights to gays who are legally married as all other married couples after getting advice last October from then Attorney General Tom Horne. That followed a federal court ruling striking down Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage.

Then in February, Horne's successor, Mark Brnovich, advised that practice should stop.

The renewed ban remained until last month after Gov. Doug Ducey learned of the change and restored the policy.

Brnovich spokeswoman Kristen Keogh said at the time that the advice was not something that Attorney General Brnovich had simply come up with out of the blue.

"We were asked to provide a clarification on preference statutes in light of the Supreme Court taking up the issue of same-sex couples adopting foster children. So we did offer the advice," Keogh said.

But Flanagan said that's not true.

"We asked no advice from the current attorney general or his staff. We had gotten that advice from the previous Attorney General's Office and we had already implemented the practice and this was completely unsolicited advice," said Flanagan.

Flanagan, who has since been fired by the governor for other reasons, said he did not believe Brnovich's advice was accurate. But Flanagan did change the policy and stopped making joint adoptions and foster-care placements with married gay couples based on the advice.

"It was also written in such a way as to imply that the attorney general and the governor were on the same page, and that it was direction more than advice," Flanagan said.

However, Ducey said he was not even aware until April of the February policy change. The governor moved immediately to overturn the revised policy, saying he was more interested in getting the 17,000 children in state care into loving families than he was in the sexual orientation of those families.

No one from the Attorney General's Office would comment.

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