August 20, 2002


LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Saying that a state ban on lesbian and gay foster parenting does nothing to help children in need and is based only on bias and stereotypes, the ACLU filed papers today asking a judge to strike down the ban once and for all. 

In the lawsuit, originally filed in 1999, four prospective foster parents - including a gay couple who have been in a committed relationship for 17 years and a heterosexual married man who is barred from foster parenting because his gay son lives at home - said the ban violates their right to equal treatment under the federal and state constitutions. The policy was adopted by the state's Child Welfare Agency Review Board in 1999. 

""The Child Welfare Board's own attorneys advised them against enacting this ban, and they went right ahead and did it anyway,"" said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. ""They allowed their bias against gay people to guide their actions in the face of overwhelming social science evidence that lesbians and gay men make perfectly good foster parents."" 

The Child Welfare League of America, the nation's oldest and largest children's advocacy organization, has gone on record as saying that ""children are not compromised in any way by having gay or lesbian parents."" Other groups that oppose banning lesbian and gay adoption and foster care include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children. 

In passing the policy, the Arkansas Board relied on the widely discredited ""junk science"" of Paul Cameron, a psychologist whose efforts to paint lesbians and gay men as child abusers and prone to violence and disease have been rejected in federal court, and caused him to be booted out of the American Psychological Association for unscientific and unethical practices in his work. 

""The Board based this ban on a handful of ugly and outdated stereotypes, and then went out looking for any evidence to back up what it had done,"" said Leslie Cooper, staff attorney with the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project at the ACLU's national headquarters. ""The Board has yet to come up with any evidence that gay people are bad parents from a legitimate scientific source - that's because there isn't any."" 

According to news reports, Arkansas has about 2,600 children placed in 700 foster homes across the state. The state has admitted that it doesn't have enough foster homes available for children awaiting placement, especially adolescents and groups of siblings. ""The Board is using this ban to express its anti-gay views at the expense of children in desperate need of loving homes,"" said Cooper. 

In its complaint, the ACLU charged that the policy conflicts with existing agency and state law directives to find foster homes that are ""in the best interest of the child."" The ACLU also said the policy violated its clients' rights to equal protection under the state and federal constitutions. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Cooper as well as Donald Ivers and Emily Sneddon of Mitchell, Blackstock, Barnes, Wagoner, Ivers & Sneddon in Little Rock.

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