Thursday, June 29, 2006
Score one for the good guys -- for the moment, at least
By ANDREW DEMILLO
Associated Press Writer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas cannot ban homosexuals from becoming foster parents because there is no link between their sexual orientation and a child?s well-being, the state's high court ruled Thursday.
The court agreed with a lower court judge that the state's child welfare board had improperly tried to regulate public morality. The ban also violated the separation of powers doctrine, the justices said.
The board instituted the ban in 1999, saying children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they would be more likely to thrive.
Four residents sued, claiming discrimination and privacy violations against homosexuals who otherwise qualified as foster parents.
The justices agreed Thursday, saying the ban was "an attempt to legislate for the General Assembly with respect to public morality."
"There is no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual," Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the opinion.
In addition, the court said, the testimony of a Child Welfare Agency Review Board member demonstrated that "the driving force between adoption of the regulations was not to promote the health, safety and welfare of foster children but rather based upon the board's views of morality and its bias against homosexuals."
The court also said that being raised by homosexuals doesn't cause academic problems or gender identity problems, as the state had argued.
The ban had not been used since the lower court ruling in 2004, state Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell said. She said the plaintiffs have not sought foster-parent status since then.
The department didn't know if any homosexuals have applied, she said.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union represented the plaintiffs in the case. Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas, said she was pleased by Thursday's decision.
Finally, some signs of sanity. Of course, this has nothing to do with Louisiana, where you still cannot adopt/foster if you're gay. But if this ruling is upheld, it should be possible to change that here. Whoohoo.
Here's my thing -- I have a niece that I love. I mean, deep, viceral, no-holds-barred love. From the moment I saw her, the first moment I held her, something in me (that I was pretty sure didn't even exist) woke up. She's my child, even though technically she's my niece. She's also adopted. If I had wanted to adopt her, instead of my brother and his wife, I wouldn't have been allowed to. Because I'm bisexual, which in Louisiana is the same thing as gay. (And please, gods, don't get me started on how they're NOT the same thing. . .) Regardless of the fact that I'm educated, employed, healthy, white, middle-class with good values and the capacity to care for a child, I'd have been denied that chance. Because of the fact that, sometimes, I like to sleep with women. Do people realize how incredible unimportant who shares a bed is to raising a child? Isn't it more important to be loving, devoted, nurturing and accepting? Isn't it more important to impart good morals and values and train children to be decent, hard-working citizens who care about themselves and others?
My niece is a very lucky little girl. She's got two parents who love her, grandparents that completely adore her and an aunt that would literally change the world for her, if she needed it. And she'd have had the same thing if I'd been the one to adopt her. (Well, two parents eventually. One at the moment.) How different are the situations of most gay adoptive/foster parents? When a child joins a family, they're not just getting parents. They're getting grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings and cousins....how can you look at a couple, decide their sex life isn't up to par, and ignore the rest of what they have to offer?