Anti-gay marriage bans have certainly gotten a lot of attention this election cycle, but there's one other state law on the ballot to which LGBT people should be paying attention.
If passed, Initiated Act 1 in Arkansas would ban anyone - gay or straight - who lives with a partner he or she isn't married to from fostering or adopting children. Child welfare professionals agree that blanket bans like this only harm children by reducing the pool of potential homes. The proponents of this ballot question originally presented it to the public as if they were all about protecting children too.
But as more and more pediatricians, psychologists, social workers, former foster children themselves, and other groups that really DO care about children come forward against the ban, the increasingly unhinged remarks of representatives of the ballot question's proponents show what Initiated Act 1 is really about. In every interview they've given lately, the ban's proponents have painted the groups opposed to the ban as part of the "gay agenda." So who are some of the groups behind this supposed big gay conspiracy?
- Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the most respected child welfare organization in the state
- Foster Care Alumni of America, who just spoke out against Initiated Act 1 this week
- The Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- The Arkansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers
- And 13 retired Arkansas judges, including three former chief justices of the state Supreme Court
The coalition opposing Initated Act 1, Arkansas Families First, has just released this video that tells you a little more about their efforts.
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Initiated Act 1 came about in response to a case the ACLU won in 2006 in which we challenged an anti-gay foster care ban. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the ban was unconstitutional because it wasn't in the best interest of the state's children. Anti-gay activists then tried to push a parenting ban through the state legislature last year, and when that failed, they proposed the ballot initiative.
Let's get real here. Initiated Act 1 is about one thing and one thing only: anti-gay sentiment at the expense of children in need. Denying couples the chance to provide homes to children who need them when there are between 450 and 500 Arkansas children who need adoptive homes at any given time is not just irresponsible. It's reprehensible.
In addition to the video above, Arkansas Families First has produced a short television commercial that it hopes to get on the air throughout Arkansas. They - and Arkansas's children - sure could use your help in getting the word out. Please visit their website to see how you can help.
Want to learn more about the rights of LGBT parents and their children? Visit the ACLU LGBT Project’s online toolkit, Get Busy, Get Equal!