House committee shoots down bill that would ban any unmarried couples from adopting, fostering
LITTLE ROCK Chances that legislators in the current session could approve a ban on gays and unmarried couples becoming foster parents or adopting children shrank significantly Tuesday, March 27, as a proposal to do that failed twice before a House committee.
The bill by Sen. Shawn Womack, R-Mountain Home, is an effort to reinstate a ban struck down last year by the Arkansas Supreme Court, though Womack’s measure is broader than the regulation that the justices said was unconstitutional.
The proposal was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote Tuesday afternoon. Earlier, the bill had failed when no one on the committee moved to pass it. The panel had rejected an amendment Womack offered that would have allowed gays to adopt children if they were related to the child.
When Rep. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, asked later for reconsideration, there was no discussion, but a voice vote was taken. There was no roll call, but three committee members Reps. Aaron Burkes, R-Lowell; John Paul Wells, D-Paris, and Woods said later they voted for the measure.
“I think it’s a good bill and it means a lot to me,” Woods said after the vote.
“It meant a lot to me that we have an opportunity to vote on this.”
Banning gays from becoming foster parents would have put into law a state regulation that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court last year.
The state Child Welfare Board instituted a ban on gay foster parents in March 1999, saying children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they are more likely to thrive in that environment.
Womack told the panel that justices rejected the ban because it was imposed through regulation instead of by law.
Members of the committee were skeptical over how the state would enforce the ban and how the state would verify whether a person was a gay or lesbian.
The measure faced the skepticism of Gov. Mike Beebe, who said the proposal has constitutional problems. Last year, Beebe said he would support banning gays from fostering children if the legislation could pass constitutional muster.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 30, 2007
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