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Defense witness cites religious beliefs in Arkansas foster parent case

Defense witness cites religious beliefs in Arkansas foster parent case

A former Arkansas state regulator who proposed that the state bar gays from becoming foster parents testified that she believes same-sex sexual relationships are sinful. In a Pulaski County courtroom, Robin Woodruff, a licensed attorney and former member of the state Child Welfare Agency Review Board, said Wednesday that she pushed for the ban because of her religious beliefs that homosexual activity is wrong. Homosexuality is "a sin, like I have sins in my life," Woodruff said. The board, which is appointed by the governor and administers the Department of Human Services' foster care and adoption programs, eventually adopted a regulation that prevents any household with gay or lesbian adults from becoming a foster home. Four Arkansans--a gay couple, a lesbian, and a heterosexual man with a gay son--claim the rule discriminates against them. The nonjury trial was expected to end Thursday. Woodruff, the defense's first witness in the trial, said she had intended to prevent single heterosexual people from becoming foster parents too when she proposed the regulation in 1999, arguing that wards of the state need married foster parents as male and female role models. But Woodruff said the rest of the board rejected the limitation on single people because many "grandmother types" were serving as foster parents or board members at the time. Woodruff testified that she doesn't allow gay or lesbian couples into her home in front of her three children, even though she said she has gay family members. She also said she has no objection to a celibate gay or lesbian person becoming a foster parent because that person would have the potential of marrying someone of the opposite sex as much as a single heterosexual person. "I'm assuming that if they are willing to [suppress] their own needs and desires, then they are putting the needs of the child first," she said "They'd have to state they won't live in that lifestyle going forward." She said that her beliefs are based on the Bible and an article on an AIDS study in the religious journal Focus on the Family. Plaintiffs' attorney Leslie Cooper charged that Woodruff had not read the actual study but rather an analysis by a publication that opposes gay rights, but Woodruff said she could not remember if she had seen the full study. She said she read many scientific studies on both sides of the issue while the board was considering the regulation and that none of them changed her beliefs. Before Woodruff took the stand, circuit judge Tim Fox denied a motion by defense attorney Kathy L. Hall to dismiss the plaintiffs' suit against the board. Hall argued that none of the plaintiffs had established the necessary standing to file the complaint because they never recorded their intent to become foster parents. Plaintiff William Wagner of Waldron testified this week that an official told him over the telephone that he couldn't become a foster parent because his gay son sometimes stays at his and his wife's home. Anne Shelley of Fayetteville, another plaintiff, also said she was told she couldn't apply over the phone. Plaintiff Matthew Howard of Little Rock filled out application papers for the first time Tuesday. Hall said that indicated that Howard knew he didn't have standing. Fox did dismiss claims by Howard's gay partner of 19 years, Craig Stoops, who had declined to testify in the case.

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