Judge overturns Arkansas adoption ban
A state judge on Friday overturned an Arkansas law banning unmarried couples living together from adopting or fostering children, saying the measure infringed on a person’s right to privacy.
The law effectively banned gays and lesbians from adopting or fostering children because they are unable to legally marry in Arkansas.
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza said in a two-page ruling Friday that people in “non-marital relationships” are forced to choose between becoming a parent and sustaining that relationship.
“Due process and equal protection are not hollow words without substance,” Piazza said. “They are rights enumerated in our constitution that must not be construed in such a way as to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.”
Piazza, a former prosecutor, agreed with claims by families who said the ban lessened the number of available adoptive and foster parents to the point where thousands of children could go without homes.
He said the ban cast “an unreasonably broad net” and did not serve the state’s interest.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in December 2008 on behalf of a group of families seeking to overturn the ban. Voters approved the measure in November 2008, two years after the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned a policy by state child welfare officials that blocked gays from being foster parents.
Holly Dickson, a lawyer with the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU who represented the families, said Piazza’s ruling opens many homes for children who need them.
“We hope to see the state screening everyone that could be a potential good parent,” Dickson said.
Jerry Cox, leader of the Arkansas Family Council which backed the ban and helped defend it in court, said his group will appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“I think (Piazza’s ruling) undermines the welfare of children. I can rail against judicial tyranny. He overruled the will of the people. It’s a sad day when a judge can do that,” Cox said.