Department of Health and Human Services is appealing a
judge's ruling that the state improperly barred gay men and
lesbians from serving as foster parents.
The agency filed papers with the Arkansas court
of appeals on Thursday to appeal a ruling last year by
Pulaski County circuit judge Tim Fox that
prohibiting the state's gay men and lesbians from
being foster parents was unconstitutional. Fox had
ruled that the Child Welfare Agency Review Board did
not have authority from the legislature to craft the
policy, which Fox said was based on the board's sense
of public morality. Fox also said testimony did not prove
gay foster parents posed a hazard to the children.
Agency attorney Kathy L. Hall argues that Fox
misapplied the law that gave the board authority to
make its rules.
The ban was begun in March 1999, when the board
ruled that children should be in traditional
two-parent homes because they are more likely to
thrive in that environment. Four Arkansans sued, represented
by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union. The
suit said the four were qualified parents and had been
The ACLU had argued that the regulation violated
the equal-protection rights of gays. In his ruling Fox
said gays are not a protected class. But the judge
said barring gays did not promote the Child Welfare Agency
Review Board's mission of ensuring the health, safety, and
welfare of children.
Fox also said that public morality, as
determined by the legislature, is a legitimate state
interest, within constitutional limits. Fox noted
testimony of sociologists and psychologists that gay people
can be as loving and caring foster parents as
heterosexuals and that their children can be as
well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual couples.
After the ruling the Department of Human
Services stopped asking whether potential foster
parents were gay, DHS spokeswoman Julie Munsell said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have 30 days in which to file a
response to the appeal. (AP)