ACLU Argues Before Arkansas Supreme Court To Uphold Ruling Striking Down Parenting Ban

March 17, 2011 4:40 pm

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LITTLE ROCK– The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arkansas appeared before the Arkansas Supreme Court today to defend a lower court’s ruling striking down a law that bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner, including those in same-sex relationships, from serving as an adoptive or foster parent. In April, the Pulaski County Circuit Court found that the law, known as Act 1, did not serve the state’s interest in determining what is best for children. The state of Arkansas appealed the circuit court’s ruling.

“There are over 1600 children in the state of Arkansas who need a permanent family. This law bars qualified couples from providing these children a loving home,” said Rita Sklar, Executive Director for the ACLU of Arkansas. “For the sake of Arkansas’ children, the court should let the ruling stand and end this discriminatory ban.”

The ACLU filed its complaint against Act 1 in December 2008. Plaintiffs participating in the case include three teenagers in state care who are awaiting placement with a foster or adoptive family, a lesbian couple who adopted an Arkansas foster child before Act 1 was passed and would like to open their home to another special-needs child, a grandmother who was barred by Act 1 from adopting her own grandchild and several married heterosexual couples who are prohibited by Act 1 from arranging for certain friends or relatives to adopt their children if they die or become incapacitated.

“This law denies loving homes to Arkansas’ most vulnerable children and presents a completely inappropriate intrusion into the relationships of families who lack the freedom to designate who should care for their children if something should happen to them,” said Christine P. Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “This ban hurts families, and the court must affirm the ruling striking it down.”

Act 1 does not prevent single people who live alone from adopting or fostering children in Arkansas, and does not bar unmarried cohabiting couples from serving as guardians. The ACLU’s brief states that the law serves no purpose other than to exclude qualified foster and adoptive applicants, with a particular unfounded and unlawful prejudice against same-sex couples. The ACLU’s brief points out that the Arkansas Supreme Court, ruling in a 2006 case that struck down a law explicitly banning gay people from serving as foster parents, found that there is absolutely no connection between a person’s sexual orientation and their ability to parent.

Attorneys on the case include Marie-Bernarde Miller and Daniel J. Beck of Williams & Anderson PLC, on behalf of the ACLU of Arkansas; Sun, Leslie Cooper and Rose Saxe of the ACLU; and Garrard R. Beeney, Stacey R. Friedman, Stephen Ehrenberg, Emma Gilmore, Christopher Diffee, Taly Dvorkis, Angelica Sinopole and Jared A. Bennett Feiger of Sullivan and Cromwell.

The ACLU’s brief can be found here:

More on this case, including videos featuring some of the plaintiffs, can be found here:

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