Out of Limbo: An Interview With Kent Burbank

Kent Burbank and family scaled

Kent Burbank (left) and his family

Marriage equality for same-sex couples has come about partly through court decisions finding against states that have passed laws or constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

In Arizona, the case was Majors v. Jeanes (formerly Majors v. Horne), which included seven couples and two widowed members of couples. One of the couples in the case was Kent Burbank and Vicente Talanquer, who had adopted two sons. Since Arizona did not allow two “unrelated” individuals to adopt jointly, only one of the fathers — Vicente — had been able to legally adopt. And when the couple was legally married in Iowa, that marriage was not recognized in Arizona, meaning that Kent still could not be a legal father to his sons. Only after the decision in Majors v. Jeanes on October 17, 2014, was he finally able to adopt his sons. His family is one of the first in Arizona in which both parents in a same-sex couple were legally able to adopt their children jointly.


“Vicente became the legal father. I had to, essentially, be nothing.”


Kent Burbank, who was once on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, agreed to share his experiences with the adoption process, the lawsuit, and his marriage. I was very interested in interviewing him: I am also an adoptive parent, and since I adopted as a single mom, mine was also viewed as a non-traditional adoption. As we talked, I found we had experiences in common, but that some of what we faced was quite different.

Our meeting took place at the library in downtown Tucson, on January 5, 2015.

Arizona only allowed husband and wife to adopt jointly. Is that why you got involved with the lawsuit?

Our primary purpose for joining the lawsuit, speaking just for my husband and I, was about getting the ability to have both of us recognized as legal parents. When we went through the adoption process we had to do everything that a married, heterosexual couple would have had to have done — background checks, lengthy histories on both of us, statements about why we both want to adopt — and at the very end they said, “Oh, so sorry. Arizona doesn’t allow unmarried, gay couples to adopt.” Continue reading

LGBTQ Legislation in Arizona

Phoenix Gay Pride Parade, 2010. Photo: Fritz Liess via Flickr

Phoenix Gay Pride Parade, 2010. Photo: Fritz Liess via Flickr

I’m certain everyone read yesterday’s post on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (that’s today) and thought, “I’m so glad I live in Arizona, where the state legislature and judiciary would never further oppress an already marginalized group of people!”

Right?

Right?

Of course, the reality is that even recent Arizona lawmakers have established a trend of creating legislation that further harms women, people of color, and poor people. Sadly, we can add gay people and trans* people to that list as well.

Adoption Law — While the state’s current adoption statute allows unmarried people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to petition to adopt, only a “husband and wife” may jointly adopt children. It does not provide for joint adoption by people in other domestic partnerships. In fact, if other factors are equal, current law gives explicit placement preference to “a married man and woman.” Moreover, additional legislation has been introduced at least twice — once in 2006 and once in 2010 — to attempt to require adoption agencies to give “primary consideration” to married couples seeking to adopt.

Speaking of Marriage — Queer folk can’t do that here. If they do get married in a place where the local legislation allows it, the state of Arizona won’t recognize the marriage.

Birth Certificates — The statute does allow for an amended birth certificate if the person applying for such has had “a sex change operation” (sex reassignment surgery) and a note from their doctor saying as much. Certainly this is preferable to not having the option. However, it ignores some of the realities of sex reassignment surgery — that it can actually be a number of surgeries, that it comes with risks (e.g., general anesthetic) that can make it unworkable for some people, that it’s expensive and generally not covered by insurance, that providers are few and far between. Continue reading