ACLU asks judge to suspend adoption, foster law

Posted on 07 Jan 2009 at 5:36pm
By Andrew DeMillo Associated Press

Voter-approved initiative went into effect on Jan. 1

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has asked a judge to temporarily suspend a state law banning unmarried foster and adoptive parents.

The group filed the motion Monday, Jan. 4 in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeking an injunction or temporary restraining order affecting Initiated Act 1, which went into effect Jan. 1 after voters approved the ban in November.

The ACLU last week sued the state on behalf of more than a dozen families seeking to overturn the law.

In its filing Monday, the group asked Judge Chris Piazza to prevent the state from using the law to take any action that would permanently affect the placement of children in state care. The ACLU said a hearing should be held quickly because one of the plaintiffs is a grandmother who lives with her same-sex partner of nine years and is the only relative able and willing to adopt her 7-month-old grandchild, who is now in Arkansas state care.

The group asked for a hearing on the motion by Jan. 12, or a temporary restraining order if a hearing cannot be held by then.

"Act 1 will have devastating and permanent consequences for children in the state of Arkansas, hundreds of whom are currently in need of a ‘forever’ home and may never find one," the group said in its motion.

Sheila Cole, the grandmother seeking to adopt her granddaughter, lives with her partner in Tulsa, Okla. According to the motion, her granddaughter — referred to as "W.H." — has been in state custody since July and will likely be eligible for adoption after Jan. 13.

"Absent a preliminary injunction, there is an immediate threat that [the state] will rely on Act 1 to permanently and irrevocably place W.H. with non-relatives over Cole, her grandmother, simply because Cole, who wants nothing more than to be able to care for her granddaughter, is in a long-term and committed relationship with a same-sex partner," the motion said.

The Arkansas Family Council, a conservative group, had campaigned for the initiated act in response to a 2006 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling overturning the state’s ban on gay foster parents. Jerry Cox, the council’s president, said Monday he was confident the ACLU’s lawsuit would fail.

"We expected them to try everything at their disposal," Cox said.

The ACLU also asked to file under seal an affidavit by Cole that describes in detail the allegations of her granddaughter’s abuse.

The case was assigned to Judge Timothy Fox then reassigned to Piazza after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel objected last week to Fox handling the case. In a previous lawsuit, Fox had overturned the state’s administrative ban on gay foster parents.

Gabe Holmstrom, a spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, declined to comment on the filing because McDaniel’s office had not yet seen it.

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