Trial resumes over Arkansas gay foster ban

The stress of living with gay foster parents can damage foster children who already are more likely to have psychological disorders, an expert testified Tuesday in a legal challenge of Arkansas's ban on gay foster parents.

Foster children are better off living in a traditional home with a mother and father, South Carolina psychologist George Rekers testified for the state. Rekers cited studies showing that gay partnerships are less stable and more short-lived than those of married couples. He also said children living with gay foster parents face a risk of cruelty and ridicule from their peers.

"That kind of family structure provides some unique benefits that foster children in particular need" because of their higher levels of mental and behavioral problems, Rekers said. His testimony came at the resumption of a trial delayed since March, when another expert witness for the state was killed in a traffic accident.

In March Charles Gist was scheduled to testify for the state Child Welfare Review Board, which in 1999 imposed a ban that bars foster children from being placed with families where gay adults are present. The child welfare board is appointed by the governor and administers the Department of Human Services' foster care and adoption programs.

Four Arkansans--a gay couple, a lesbian, and a straight man with a gay son--claim the rule discriminates against them. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the plaintiffs, said Nebraska is the only other state to bar gays from becoming foster parents.

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