ACLU Argues Challenge to Missouri's Anti-Gay Foster Care Ban

Affiliate: ACLU of Missouri
November 3, 2005 12:00 am

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KANSAS CITY, MO – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a Jackson County Circuit Court judge to overturn the Missouri Department of Social Services decision that denied a woman’s application to become a foster parent because she is a lesbian. The denial came in spite of an administrative judge’s opinion that she was “”exceptionally”” qualified.

“”All we want is the chance to open our home and our hearts to a child,”” said Lisa Johnston, who along with her partner Dawn Roginski had hoped to foster a special-needs child before her application was denied. “”When we learned that we’d never be given that chance because we’re lesbians, we were heartbroken.””

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, had applied to DSS in 2003 to become a foster parent to a child that she and 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.

“”Part of the state’s explanation for denying Lisa and Dawn the opportunity to be foster parents was a state law banning sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, but that law was already rendered unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas two years ago,”” said Brett Shirk, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “”Preventing lesbian and gay people who are clearly qualified to be foster parents is unconstitutionally discriminatory and does a great disservice to the children in our state who desperately need good foster 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.

“”For the state to put myths and disapproval of gay people above the needs of the nearly 2,000 children in Missouri who desperately need homes is shameful,”” said Dr. Ken Haller, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “”Numerous medical studies have shown that children raised by two parents of the same sex do just as well in every measure of social, intellectual, and moral development as children raised by opposite-sex parents.””

“”By enacting a policy that prevents gay people and lesbians from being foster parents, the Missouri Department of Social Services has sacrificed the interests of foster children to make a misguided political statement against the LGBT community,”” said Julie Brueggemann, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality organization. “”We hope that the judge will see that hypocrisy for exactly what it is.””

Under Missouri law, every potential foster parent is already required to undergo strict screening before being qualified as foster parents. 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.

Johnston is represented by Ken Choe of the ACLU’s national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project and ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri cooperating attorney Lisa Brunner of Husch & Eppenberger, LLC.

Additional information about the case, including biographical information about Johnston and Roginski, is available at

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