With last week's decision by the attorney general of Florida not to appeal a ruling overturning that state's 33-year-old ban on adoptions by gay people, our attention has turned to Arkansas, where the state is appealing a ruling overturning a ban on adoptions by unmarried couples. Passed by voters in 2008, the law is clearly aimed at same-sex couples, whose marriages are not recognized by the state. The Arkansas Supreme Court has previously struck down a ban on adoptions by gay people and we're hopeful that they'll do the same here.
The tragedy of these adoption bans is that, in addition to being discriminatory in principle, they result in real, tangible harm to children and families. Take, for example, Stephanie and Wendy, a couple from Conway who had previously adopted Tyler, a special-needs child, and want to adopt another child, but are banned from doing so. With more special-needs kids available for adoption than homes for them to go to, this law is keeping a child out of a loving, permanent, stable home.
Then there's Meredith Scroggin and her husband Benny. If anything should happen to them, they want their two daughters to be adopted by Meredith's cousin Matt Harrison and his partner of 10 years, Frank Pennisi. But because of the Arkansas ban, this very personal, important decision for any parent — who would raise your kids in the event of your death — is taken out of Meredith and Benny's hands by the state.
The ACLU challenged Act 1 right after it passed in December 2008, charging that the law violates the federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.
In April 2010, a state trial court found Act 1 unconstitutional, holding 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." The state appealed the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Last night, we filed our brief asking the court to uphold the trial court's decision striking down the ban.
For the sake of these families and all children and families in Arkansas, we hope the Arkansas Supreme Court will lay the newest version of this noxious law to rest.