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ACLU files brief
on Arkansas gay foster care ban

ACLU files brief
on Arkansas gay foster care ban

The Arkansas supreme court has been asked by the American Civil Liberties Union to uphold a lower-court decision that said state officials improperly barred gay men and lesbians from serving as foster parents. In papers submitted to the court Monday, the organization asked justices to uphold a ruling last year by Pulaski County circuit judge Tim Fox that said such a ban was unconstitutional. Fox 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. The ACLU said it was joined by an array of child advocacy organizations, including the Child Welfare League of America and the American Psychological Association. "This antigay foster-parenting ban goes against the recommendation of every major children's health and welfare organization in the country," said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas. "These experts all understand all too well how this policy hurts the many children in Arkansas in need of safe, stable homes." The ACLU submitted its papers Monday, but the papers were not filed because of a technical error. Sklar said the organization would refile a corrected brief later this week. The state appealed Fox's ruling in November. The ban started 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, saying they were qualified as foster parents but had been discriminated against. The ACLU argued that the regulation violated the equal-protection rights of gays. In his ruling, Fox said gays are not a protected class but added that 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. (AP)

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