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Revised Arkansas bill still bars gay couples from adopting

Revised Arkansas bill still bars gay couples from adopting

In a strategic move to boost support, legislative sponsors have abandoned efforts to specifically bar gays from being adoptive or foster parents in Arkansas. Instead, they targeted unmarried cohabiting adults, and the strategy appeared to work. The house committee on aging, children and youth, and legislative and military affairs approved the revised measure on a voice vote Wednesday after rejecting an amendment that would have provided for a blanket exception made in the best interest of the child. The bill goes to the house floor. Dropping any mention of gays or lesbians, the latest version would prohibit the state from placing a child with an adoptive or foster parent who is an unmarried adult "who is cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage" under the state constitution. Gay couples still would be excluded from adoptions and foster parenting under the change, though, because a new state constitutional amendment bars same-sex couples from marrying; thus the bill would bar a person who lives with a gay partner. Arkansas law does not prohibit single individuals living alone from adopting a child or serving as a foster parent, though for years it has been department of human services policy not to place children in homes with cohabitating adults. The bill's supporters said the measure would make that policy state law. The senate sponsor, Republican Jim Holt of Springdale, said legislative approval would be "a huge incremental step that might be able to get us to the next step. We'll have to see about maybe following up, maybe with a...constitutional amendment" to accompany what the original version of the bill intended. Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the organization would closely scrutinize the bill for a possible legal challenge if it becomes law. "There are some questions about laws that interfere with private associational relationships, like sexual relationships, that prohibit people in those relationships from participating in certain privileges like fostering and adopting," Sklar said. "It's something that we're looking at." (AP)

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