At a Little Rock, Arkansas press
conference this morning, more than a dozen families announced they
would ask a court to strike down a new law that bans unmarried
couples from adopting or fostering children.
Act 1 was approved by voters on
November 4. The law affects both gay and straight couples, but
disproportionately impacts gay couples who cannot legally marry in
The lawsuit was filed by the Arkansas
chapter of the ACLU on behalf of the families.
“This law hurts families and children
in many ways,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of
Arkansas in a press release. “It takes away parents' right to
decide for themselves who will adopt their children if they die, it
denies the many children in Arkansas state care a chance at the
largest possible pool of foster and adoptive homes, and denies
couples who are living together but unmarried the chance to provide
loving homes to children who desperately need them.”
“Ever since the election, we've been
hearing from all corners of the state from dozens of families who are
panicking about how Act 1 impacts them,” Sklar said.
Sheila Cole, who is banned from
adopting her own granddaughter, is among the plaintiffs. In May,
Sheila's granddaughter was placed in the Arkansas foster care system
when she was two months old. Cole is now waiting for approval from
the state to adopt her granddaughter, but fears Act 1 will prevent
that because she lives with her lesbian partner.
Frank Pennisi and Matt Harrison have
been together for eight years. Matt's cousin and her husband would
like the couple to adopt their two daughters in the event of their
death. Act 1, however, disqualifies the couple.
The families argue that Act 1 violates
the federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and
due process. The complaint was filed today in Pulaski County Circuit
Act 1 was backed by the Family Council
Action Committee (FCAC), the same Little Rock-based organization
largely responsible for passage of a constitutional ban against gay
marriage in Arkansas in 2004. The FCAC is partially funded by James
Dobson's conservative ministry Focus on the Family Action.
While the law bans both gay and
straight couples, the FCAC's website lists banning gay and lesbian
couples from adoption as a goal of the law.
The FCAC lists three primary reasons
for the law: For the safety of children, to increase the number of
prospective homes, and to “blunt a homosexual agenda.”
“We are confident this lawsuit will
fail and Act 1 will remain on the books,” FCAC President Jerry Cox
told The Associated Press.
The FCAC went to work on the anti-gay
law after the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a 1999 Child Welfare
Agency Review Board rule banning gay and lesbian couples from serving
as foster parents after a prolonged seven-year battle.
On the Net: ACLU plaintiff profiles at