Ark. Court Hears Arguments on Gay Parenting Appeal
The Arkansas Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments March 17 from civil rights lawyers urging that a lower court’s verdict allowing gay and lesbian families to adopt be upheld.
Legal challenges to Arkansas state laws banning gays, lesbians, and unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting have been under challenge for years. In 2004, Judge Timothy Fox struck down a law implemented under then-governor Mike Huckabee that barred gays and lesbians from serving as foster parents. An expert witness for the state in that case was anti-gay activist and Family Research Council co-founder George Rekers, whose input was specifically cited by Fox as driven purely by personal prejudices--a view that the state Supreme Court echoed in affirming Fox’s verdict.
Rekers made headlines last year when he hired a 20-year-old male escort off RentBoy.com to accompany him as a paid companion on a European vacation.
The current case is an appeal following the verdict of Judge Chris Piazz of the Pulaski County Circuit Court against the state with regard to Act 1, a law that says that no same-sex couples--or unwed heterosexual couples--may adopt or serve as a foster parent in Arkansas. The Arkansas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union took legal action against that law in 2008. The ban was struck down in April, 2010, by the Pulaski County Circuit Court, reported a March 17 ACLU press release.
"Plaintiffs participating in the case include three teenagers in state care who are awaiting placement with a foster or adoptive family, a lesbian couple who adopted an Arkansas foster child before Act 1 was passed and would like to open their home to another special-needs child, a grandmother who was barred by Act 1 from adopting her own grandchild and several married heterosexual couples who are prohibited by Act 1 from arranging for certain friends or relatives to adopt their children if they die or become incapacitated," the release related.
"This law denies loving homes to Arkansas’ most vulnerable children and presents a completely inappropriate intrusion into the relationships of families who lack the freedom to designate who should care for their children if something should happen to them," said the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project lawyer Christine P. Sun. "This ban hurts families, and the court must affirm the ruling striking it down."
"There are over 1600 children in the state of Arkansas who need a
permanent family," noted ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar. "This law bars qualified couples from providing these children a loving home. For the sake of Arkansas’ children, the court should let the ruling stand and end this discriminatory ban."
"Act 1 does not prevent single people who live alone from adopting or fostering children in Arkansas, and does not bar unmarried cohabiting couples from serving as guardians," the ACLU release said. "The ACLU’s brief states that the law serves no purpose other than to exclude qualified foster and adoptive applicants, with a particular unfounded and unlawful prejudice against same-sex couples.
"The ACLU’s brief points out that the Arkansas Supreme Court, ruling in a 2006 case that struck down a law explicitly banning gay people from serving as foster parents, found that there is absolutely no connection between a person’s sexual orientation and their ability to parent," the release added.
Act 1 is an example of the rights of gay and lesbian families being abrogated at the ballot box. The measure was passed by Arkansas voters 57-43% in November, 2008, noted Queerty in a Jan. 28 article. The states that no unmarried couples may adopt or legally foster children. Because same-sex families are denied marriage rights in Arkansas, the law served as a means to deprive gay and lesbian families of further rights.
"While the measure was proposed primarily to prohibit same-sex couples from being adoptive or foster parents, the ban also applied to all otherwise qualified couples who are not legally married," noted a Ballotpedia posting.
Act 1 was a direct response to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s upholding of the lower court rulings that struck down the Huckabee-era law, Ballotpedia said.