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Judge considers
whether Missouri lesbian can become foster parent

Judge considers
whether Missouri lesbian can become foster parent

Attorneys for a Kansas City, Mo., woman whose application for a foster parent license was denied because she is a lesbian argued Thursday that the state cannot discriminate based on gender or sexual orientation. After hearing arguments from the attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the state, circuit judge Sandra Midkiff said she will decide within a month whether to overturn an unwritten state policy that prevents people who are openly gay from becoming foster parents. The ACLU says the unwritten policy is the only reason the state would not allow Lisa Johnston--who hoped to raise a child with her partner, Dawn Roginski--to become a foster parent. Johnston, who has a bachelor's degree in human development and family, with special emphasis on child development, is an educational consultant who has also worked for an organization that trains foster parents. And Roginski has a master's degree in counseling and another in divinity. The two passed a home site visit and completed seven of nine training sessions before the Missouri Department of Social Services denied Johnston's application. Johnston, with the backing of the ACLU, sued the state. "Our argument was, there's no rational basis for banning lesbians and gays and that the only reason Lisa Johnston was denied to bring in a foster child was because she's a lesbian," said Brett Shirk, executive director of the local ACLU. "The state of Missouri cannot discriminate based on gender or sexual preference." Shirk noted that in denying the application, officials said Johnston and Roginski were not of reputable character because Missouri has a same-sex sodomy law. But Shirk argued that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas law against sodomy in private settings, invalidates Missouri's law. Deborah Scott, a spokeswoman for the department, defended the agency's decision. "It has been a long-standing policy of the department not to knowingly license individuals who declare themselves to be homosexual," Scott said. "We continue to believe that that is a policy the department should continue to hold." (AP)

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