Arkansas Court Strikes Down Parenting Ban
Sheila Cole (right) is a plaintiff in Cole v. Arkansas.
Law Barring Unmarried Couples From Adopting And Fostering Deemed Unconstitutional
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LITTLE ROCK– An Arkansas court today struck down a law challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union that bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner from serving as an adoptive or foster parent in the state of Arkansas.
“We are happy that the court recognized that Act 1 harms Arkansas’s foster children because it eliminates potential qualified parents,” said Holly Dickson, staff attorney with the ACLU of Arkansas. “We have a critical shortage of homes now and this ban was denying good, loving homes to our most vulnerable children.”
The ACLU filed its complaint against the law, known as Act 1, in December 2008. Plaintiffs participating in the case included a lesbian couple who adopted an Arkansas foster child before Act 1 was passed and would like to open their home to a second special needs child, a grandmother who was barred by Act 1 from adopting her own grandchild and several married heterosexual couples who would have been prohibited by Act 1 from arranging for certain friends or relatives to adopt their children if they die or become incapacitated.
“As the proud parents of a former foster child, we are relieved that the court recognized how Act 1 harms the many children in the state in need of homes,” said Wendy Rickman, who, along with her partner of 11 years, Stephanie Huffman, would like to provide a home to another child in need.
In today’s order, Judge Christopher C. Piazza of the Pulaski County Circuit Court held that the law casts an unreasonably broad net and did not “serve the State’s interest in determining what is in the best interest of the child.” He also noted that he was troubled by the fact that the law targeted gay people. The state of Arkansas is expected to appeal the decision.
“This law was harmful to families and children,” said Christine Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “The discriminatory policies embodied by this law did a disservice to children in need of a loving home by reducing the number of potential adoptive and foster parents. We are delighted that the court has found that it should not stand.”
“This case was fundamentally about protecting some of Arkansas’ most vulnerable citizens – children in state care,” said Stacey Friedman, attorney with Sullivan and Cromwell, co-counsel with the ACLU. “The court reached the right result. Our firm is honored to be associated with this effort to protect the kids who just want loving, forever families, as well as the couples who want to provide homes for these kids.”