An Arkansas judge has ruled the state's
ban on gay adoption unconstitutional.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge
Christopher C. Piazza on Friday struck down a law that bans an
unmarried person who lives with a partner from serving as an adoptive
or foster parent. Because the state banned gay marriage in 2004,
the law disproportionately affects gay couples.
The law – Act 1 – was approved by
57% of voters in 2008.
“The Act significantly burdens
non-marital relationships and acts of sexual intimacy between adults
because it forces them to choose between becoming a parent and having
any meaningful type of intimate relationship outside of marriage,”
Piazza wrote in his two-page ruling. “This infringes upon the
fundamental right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens of Arkansas.”
“It is especially troubling that one
politically unpopular group has been specifically targeted for
exclusion by the Act,” he added.
The state had argued that the law
protects children from abuse and neglect, adding that children fare
better when raised in a traditional family setting, with married
The American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) filed its legal challenge on behalf of a lesbian couple barred
from adopting a special needs child, a grandmother who could not
adopt her own grandchild and several married heterosexual couples who
were banned by the law from designating certain friends or relatives
from adopting their children if they die or become incapacitated.
Sheila Cole is among the plaintiffs.
In 2008, her granddaughter was placed in the Arkansas foster care
system just months before Act 1 was approve. The law prevents her
from adopting her granddaughter because she lives with her lesbian
“We are happy that the court
recognized that Act 1 harms Arkansas' foster children because it
eliminates potential qualified parents,” Holly Dickson, staff
attorney with the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement. “We have
a critical shortage of homes now and this ban was denying good,
loving homes to our most vulnerable children.”
The Family Council Action Committee
(FCAC) was the primary backer responsible for getting the anti-gay
measure on the ballot. The Little Rock-based organization also
sponsored the Arkansas gay marriage ban.
“Act 1 protects the welfare of
children,” Jerry Cox, the group's executive director, told the
Times Record Online. “The people of Arkansas recognized
this and they passed it. Today's ruling by Judge Piazza hurts
children and puts their welfare in jeopardy.”
The FCAC went to work on Act 1 after
the state Supreme Court struck down a 1999 Child Welfare Agency
Review Board rule that banned gay and lesbian couples from serving as
The group freely acknowledged its main
objective with the law was to bar gay men and lesbians from serving
as foster parents and adopting.
“[Act 1] is about two things,” Cox
said in 2008. “It's about child welfare, first of all. Secondly,
it is to blunt a homosexual agenda that's at work in other states and
that will be at work in Arkansas unless we are proactive about doing
something about it.”
Cox, who called Piazza's ruling an
example of “judicial tyranny,” said his group acting as
intervenor in the lawsuit would appeal the ruling.