Posted by ONE Community on 02/13/2017

Love is what makes a family

Love is what makes a family

I started Arizona Family Law Attorneys back in 2005 when same-sex marriage wasn’t yet legal in Arizona.  Right from the start my conscience was crystal clear on how important equal rights were to all those who sought justice and family. There was no question in my mind where and how I should proceed in my chosen profession.

My ultimate objective, then and now, is to bring attention to the importance of equal family rights by providing strong, legal services that assist in building multiple opportunities in communities, families and homes. Even in its early days, my law practice has dedicated itself to helping same-sex couples through their adoption process .

Watching same-sex couples having to decide which parent would adopt their kid(s) legally was always challenging. It just wasn’t fair - I felt helpless - I wanted to do more. Anyone could see that both members of the relationship were a parent to the kids and there was no reason why they both shouldn’t have been able to adopt. A process so amazing, giving a child a home and making a family with the person you love became bittersweet. “Why couldn’t both parents be equally and legally involved,” I found myself thinking all the time.

Whatever your family make up is, it doesn't make it less than or more important than another. We, as a community, need to focus on the fact that families are loving, not in their gender identity or sexual orientation but in their individual ability to extend their heart to another to create a family. Details such as sexual orientation or gender identity shouldn't matter, nor does it matter, when weighed by the common denominator of loving and being loved.

With family laws changing every day, my new goal is to lead as an example to other businesses in providing equality to every single person that walks through our front door. No one is treated with preference over another. Everyone is equal. My goal is to continually provide a safe space where people don’t have to out themselves, don’t feel ashamed, and simply feel comfortable to speak about their goals, passions and concerns. That is why I signed the ONE Community UNITY Pledge. I believe that it is important to voice your support for equality, but there is a particularly powerful commitment when one puts their voice to paper.

Which brings me to why I felt it was so very important to reach out to ONE Community regarding actor Matt Dallas and singer Blue Hamilton’s adoption. These brave men had the courage to, early on in their careers, step-up and say: “Love matters!” The pluck, drive and tenderness shown by these two men deserves to be noticed.

I assist with many foster care adoptions every year. Matt and Blue came to me with the request to become a forever family with their son. Due to his sexual orientation Matt never thought that parenthood would ever be an option for him.  As you can imagine, when Matt and Blue asked me to help process the adoption for their son, I was certainly more than happy to help solidify the loving request of these two beaming fathers. They, of course, were treated equal to any other adoption I have done in the past -  with compassion, direction, and so much excitement.

The story of Matt and Blue and so many other same-sex couples highlight why it is so important that Arizona adopts legal protections that include gender identity and sexual orientation.   It’s no different than any other right that is already protected, such as ethnicity, age, gender, or religion. Everyone in this country deserves to be included in our community, which is why the laws need to change to reflect the evolution of our society. The language of our statute needs to catch up so that the current family ideals and standards are reflected.  Love is what makes a family, and I am dedicated to helping people create loving families no matter who they are or who they love. 

-Shawnna Riggers, Arizona Family Law Attorneys

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