ACLU Urges Arkansas Supreme Court to Uphold Ruling Striking Down Adoption Ban

The ACLU went before the Arkansas Supreme Court last week to argue in support of a lower court ruling overturning a 2008 ban on unmarried cohabiting couples adopting or fostering a child.

The ban, enacted in November 2008 when California saw its gay marriage ban approved by voters, is called Act 1 and was part of a religious-conservative push to further bolster what they perceive as the traditional family, that being one man and one woman married and raising children.

Act 1 brought about an immediate court challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the grounds that it violated both the state and federal constitution.

A state circuit court duly overturned Act 1 in April 2010. The court found the law violates the Arkansas Constitution — but it dismissed plaintiffs’ claims that the law also violates the United States Constitution.

The state has appealed this decision before the Supreme Court with lawyers for the defense arguing that non-traditional families, that is to say same-sex couples or unmarried cohabiting straight couples, are more likely to put children at risk and that a child’s welfare could be harmed by placing them with said adoptive/foster parents.

Lawyers also argued the law follows the status quo of laws in Arkansas, citing the gay marriage ban the state has enacted.

The ACLU rallied against this, saying that because the law does not prevent single people from adopting or fostering it is unconstitutionally targeting specific groups of people and denying them the right to adopt or foster based solely on an interpretation of religious views that does not in fact translate into solid fact with regards to child welfare or child rearing.

From the ACLU press release:

LITTLE ROCK- The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arkansas appeared before the Arkansas Supreme Court today to defend a lower court’s ruling striking down a law that bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner, including those in same-sex relationships, from serving as an adoptive or foster parent. In April, the Pulaski County Circuit Court found that the law, known as Act 1, did not serve the state’s interest in determining what is best for children. The state of Arkansas appealed the circuit court’s ruling.

“There are over 1600 children in the state of Arkansas who need a permanent family. This law bars qualified couples from providing these children a loving home,” said Rita Sklar, Executive Director for the ACLU of Arkansas. “For the sake of Arkansas’ children, the court should let the ruling stand and end this discriminatory ban.”

The ACLU filed its complaint against Act 1 in December 2008. 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.

“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 Christine P. Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “This ban hurts families, and the court must affirm the ruling striking it down.”

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’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.  

Earlier this month U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand indicated that she is currently working on federal legislation that would prevent same-sex couples and single gay people being prevented from adopting and fostering children solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Senator Gillibrand would not be drawn on when she will introduce that legislation, but did indicate that counterpart legislation would also be on the agenda in the U.S. House. For more information on this, please click here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Nerdcoregirl.


ryan b.
Ryan B7 years ago

My god people. First you don't want people aborting fetuses then when 2 people as a couple want to adopt a baby you deny them too. WTF? Are you all a bunch of morons? Take advantage of people, all people, wanting to adopt and the whole abortion thing could go away. You are all so f-ing closed minded that you don't see the whole picture.

B. L.
B. L7 years ago

@Kendra S. -- Your statement about the ACLU is an outright lie.

Rie Rie T.
Ria T7 years ago

Diana S. You're so right!I have seen kids taken from loving parents and given to abusers by so-called child protective workers who don't have children, don't know what parents experience, and don't know what kids need at all. Our system is so broken it is unbelievable.

As for gay adoptive parents, it's a pseudo issue created by pseudo Christians as William Y. wisely states.

ACLU is not perfect, but, it has stood up for the rights of the oppressed wherever the legal system might help and I'm a proud "card carrying member".

Jeannie Miner
Jeannie Fuchs7 years ago

I live in Arkansas & this is pathetic! A straight couple living together or a gay couple can not adopt due to what? (putting children at risk) BULL CRAP! How many children are right now in adoption agencys, or foster homes that had a hetro married parents???? How many children are living in hetro parent homes that are at risk at this given moment. Just because someone is gay or living with someone does not mean children are more at risk. Arkansas needs to pull theirselves out of their backwoods country bumpkin ways and step into what is better for the children. What is better for the child or children is a loving home, not sitting in a adoption home waiting & waiting for a family that never comes.

Kendra S.
Kendra S7 years ago

ACLU is a lousy organization that supports pedophiles! I do not ascribe to their madness.

William Y.
William Y7 years ago

Maureen H. asks "HUH???? Why should non-traditional families be more likely to put children at risk?"

That is just the bigoted Psuedo-Christian right's way of showing that they are moronic bigots.

Patricia S.
Pat S7 years ago

ACLU should stay out of this!!!

Maureen H.
Maureen Hawkins7 years ago

HUH???? Why should non-traditional families be more likely to put children at risk?

Bette-Ann L.
Bette-Ann Libin7 years ago

If only people knew the reality of children thriving in families same sex parenting partners! I direct a private school for children, I know first hand of the magnitude of richness and love that constitutes a "loving set of parents". I also know the darker side of parents who, by virtue of being male and female, are taken at face value without a second glance in the care of their child(ren). Ever wonder why so many children are in the foster care "system"? Take a long, hard look at their parenting history, once you pick your jaw up off the floor, perhaps you'll open your eyes to reality. I know first hand that "love makes a family" which has little to do with heterosexuals, homosexuals or purple polka dotted pygmy ponies! Great homosexual parents raise whole, nurtured and adored children better than many a heterosexual parents. Good grief Arkansas, get over your short sighted self, pull your neck out of the sand and discover the facts not the banter. Stupid is as stupid does.

Ali L.
Alison L7 years ago

Benjamin, you need a history lesson.