FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
KANSAS CITY, MO -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed court papers today on behalf of a woman deemed "exceptionally" qualified to become a foster mother whose application was denied because she is a lesbian. The ACLU is asking the court to overturn an earlier administrative ruling upholding the denial.
"To categorically deny gay people the chance to be foster parents accomplishes nothing beyond making it harder to place the nearly 2,000 foster children in need of permanent homes in Missouri," said Julie Brueggemann, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri's statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organization. "Every mainstream child advocacy and mental health organization is opposed to foster care policies that ban lesbians and gay men, because such bans serve only to hurt children who need homes."
Among the national groups that support parenting by gay and lesbian people are the American Medical Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.
The ACLU brought this lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Social Services on behalf of Lisa Johnston, a 40-year-old graduate of the University of Kansas who holds a degree in Human Development and Family with a special emphasis on child development. Johnston had applied to DSS in 2003 to become a foster parent to a child that she and her partner, Dawn Roginski, hoped to raise together. The couple underwent an extensive home study and then began attending a training program for prospective foster parents until DSS notified Johnston that it would no longer consider her for placement solely because she is a lesbian. Although the administrative judge found Johnston to be "exceptionally" qualified to foster parent, he upheld the denial of her application in March 2005. The decision was based in part on a Missouri law banning sexual intimacy between same-sex couples that was rendered unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas.
"The Department of Social Services has based its decision to bar gay people from serving as foster parents on nothing more than a handful of outdated and misguided reasons," said Scott Emanuel, LGBT Rights Project Coordinator at the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. "Today we're asking the court to do the right thing, reverse the DSS ruling, and make more loving homes available to Missouri's children."
Ironically, the couple is far more qualified than most foster care applicants, said the ACLU. Johnston works in child development and has a great deal of experience helping abused, neglected, and developmentally challenged children. Roginski is a chaplain at a psychiatric treatment center for children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders, working with children assigned to the center by juvenile courts as well as children who have had difficulty with prior foster care placements. The couple are church leaders and lead a peaceful, home-centered life.
"Missouri's anti-gay foster care ban does a huge disservice to children. We hope that once the court sees how arbitrary DSS's denial of Lisa Johnston's application was, this decision will be reversed," said Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the national ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
According to the most recent statistics, the DSS is struggling to find homes for more than 1,900 foster children. Under Missouri law, every potential foster parent is already required to undergo strict screening before being qualified to foster parent.
Additional information about the case, including biographical information about Johnston and Roginski, is available at www.aclu.org/caseprofiles.