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,
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.
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