Arkansas’ Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a voter-approved initiative that bars same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting or serving as foster parents.
The court ruled that the law, known as Act 1, is unconstitutional and burdens privacy rights. The written opinion stated that it is a fundamental right for people to engage in private, consensual sexual activity and Act 1 pits that right against the ability to adopt or foster children.
Gay or unmarried heterosexual couples “must choose either to lead a life of private, sexual intimacy with a partner without the opportunity to adopt or foster children, or forego sexual cohabitating and, thereby, attain eligibility to adopt or foster,” Justice Robert L. Brown wrote in his opinion.
Act 1, the Arkansas Adoption and Foster Care Act, was a ballot initiative supported by Arkansas Family Council in November 2008. The ballot initiative passed with 57 percent of the votes. The law prevented unmarried and cohabiting couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents, essentially barring gay couples from adopting or being a foster parent because they cannot marry in Arkansas.
The American Civil Liberties Union brought the case before the court on behalf of a group of gay couples. Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas, described the ruling as a “relief for the over 1,600 children in the state of Arkansas who need a permanent family.”
Denouncing the court decision, Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council Action Committee in Arkansas, said in a statement, “This is a classic example of judicial tyranny. The Arkansas Supreme Court has chosen to run roughshod over the people’s will and refused to uphold a good law that protected the children in the state’s care.”
More than 100,000 signatures were collected between January and August of 2008 to get Act 1 on the ballot.
“Today’s ruling was anti-child,” Cox asserted. “The ACLU couldn’t defeat this good law in a fair election, so they used the court system against the people of Arkansas. This is the worst decision ever handed down by the Arkansas Supreme Court.”
There are only two states, Mississippi and Utah, which bans unmarried, cohabiting couples from adopting. Last September, a Florida appeals court sided with a lower court ruling that found the state ban on gay adoption to be unconstitutional.