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Arkansas Supreme Court rules gay adoption ban ‘unconstitutional’

Thursday, April 7, 2011
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In a unanimous ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a voter-approved initiative that barred gay couples and other unmarried people living together from adopting or serving as foster parents.

Voters approved the measure in 2008 after the state Supreme Court overturned a Human Services Department policy preventing gay men and lesbians from serving as foster parents in 2006.

The high court upheld a lower court ruling that said the law unconstitutionally violates fundamental privacy rights.

The law, known as Act 1, was proposed to voters as a ballot initiative by the Family Council in November 2008 and passed with 57 percent of the vote. The Family Council proposed the initiative after a state policy against allowing same-sex couples to adopt or foster children was ruled unconstitutional.

In December 2008, a group of Arkansas residents filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court challenging the law. The group included unmarried adults who wanted to adopt or foster children, parents who wanted to choose who would adopt their children in the event of their incapacitation or death, and the children of those parents.

In April 2010, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled the law did not accomplish a compelling state interest and instead cast “an unreasonably broad net.” He said the law forced unmarried couples to choose between their relationships and becoming adoptive parents.

The state and the Family Council argued that adopting or fostering children is as a privilege bestowed by state law and not a fundamental right.

“Act 1’s blanket ban provides for no such individualized consideration or case-by-case analysis … and makes the assumption that in all cases where adoption or foster care is the issue it is always against the best interest of the child to be placed in a home where an individual is cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of marriage,” the court said in its opinion.

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