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Sexual orientation questions removed from Arkansas foster parent application

Sexual orientation questions removed from Arkansas foster parent application

In response to a Pulaski County, Ark., judge's ruling, the state Department of Human Services has stopped asking potential adoptive or foster parents on applications if they are gay. Last month Pulaski County circuit judge Tim Fox struck down a 1999 regulation by the state's Child Welfare Agency Review Board that said gays could not be foster parents. Fox said the board had exceeded its mandate to protect the health, safety, or welfare of foster children, and he issued an order banning enforcement of the rule. While the state human services department makes preparations to appeal the judge's ruling, the agency is following the court's directive, department spokeswoman Julie Munsell says. Since 1999 the nine-page application has included a statement of the board's policy regarding gays and asked whether the applicant or an adult member in the household was gay. "They have taken it off their Web site, and they are taking it off their applications," Munsell said last week. Meanwhile, state legislators are considering a bill that would prohibit gays and lesbians from becoming adoptive or foster parents. Rep. Bob Adams (D-Sheridan) and Sen. Jim Holt (R-Springdale) filed House Bill 1119. The bill would order the human services department or any agency involved in adoption and foster care not to place a child with gay parents or in a home that has a gay adult. The bill also says that Arkansas public policy should preserve public morality with respect to children in the foster care system. Since the court ruling, no one who has applied to become a foster parent with the department has answered yes to a question about being gay, Munsell said. She said the only applications that the department has received since 1999 from people answering yes to the question were from the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit. Though they haven't reapplied to become foster parents since the ruling, the plaintiffs haven't necessarily changed their minds about wanting to care for a foster child, said Leslie Cooper, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit. (AP)

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