State child-welfare officials learned to trust and rely on the Hams, bringing them 42 foster children over 10 years. Some needed shelter for a few days; others stayed for months. Child caseworkers knew the men would take in any child, day or night, no questions asked, and treat them as their own. And in the Hams' home, children were never sent back for doing something wrong, and it didn't matter that they were not all the same color, or had special needs.
Since 1997, conservative Arizona lawmakers have introduced a half-dozen bills that would keep single people, including gays and lesbians, from becoming foster parents or adopting children in the state's care, or would move married couples to the top of the waiting list for adoptions. Those attempts - one as recent as last year - failed to muster enough votes. But this year was different. On April 18, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that gives preference to married couples in state and private adoptions, all other criteria being equal.