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Ark. Judge Overturns State Ban on Adoption by Unmarried Couples

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on April 20, 2010 11:05 AM

Late last week, a Pulaski County circuit court judge overturned an Arkansas law banning the adoption or foster care of children in homes where the parents are unmarried. The law had effectively prohibited gay couples in the state from adopting or fostering children as they are not permitted to marry under Arkansas law.

According to the Associated Press, Judge Chris Piazza said the Arkansas law forced unmarried people to choose between their relationship and the chance to adopt or foster a child. Judge Piazza held the law violated the due process and equal protection rights of unmarried couples guaranteed by the Constitution. The law wrote the judge, "is not narrowly tailored to the least restrictive means necessary to serve the state's interest in determining what is in the best interest of the child."

The plaintiffs, group of families represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, had argued that the ban arbitrarily cut good homes from waiting lists of children in Arkansas which on average are 1,600 children long. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs' claims that the ban lessened the number of available adoptive and foster parents and could result in the possibility of thousands of children going without homes.

The governor's office and office of the state Attorney General are considering what the next step might be. "My duty as attorney general is to defend the laws of this state. The attorneys in our office have done just that. Although I have never supported this act, our office has advised and defended DHS throughout this process," Arkansas AG, Dustin McDaniel, told the AP.

Jerry Cox, leader of the Arkansas Family Council, which backed the ban and helped defend it in court, said his group will appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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