Proposed foster parent ban rewritten

Posted on 25 Jan 2007 at 5:44pm
By Peggy Harris Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would exclude unmarried couples from adoptions or foster care submitted a revised version Wednesday, Oct. 24, that would declare married couples the best guardians for Arkansas children.

Arkansas Family Council submitted the revised ballot proposal, along with a new popular name, although Attorney General Dustin McDaniel had certified the group’s original proposal last week, clearing the way for supporters to collect voter signatures.

“We believe that the proposal we sent over today is a much better proposal than the one the attorney general approved initially,” Arkansas Family Council director Jerry Cox said. “I don’t think there is going to be a problem.”

The revised version includes the sentence: “The people of Arkansas find and declare that it is in the best interest of children in need of adoption or foster care to be reared in homes in which adoptive or foster parents are not co-habiting outside of marriage.”

Family Council organizers had second thoughts about the popular name, which McDaniel had recommended and the group adopted, and the group revised the name in the interest of clarity, Cox said.

Cox noted that Arkansas law does not allow same-sex marriages, and said the original name included an unnecessary reference to individuals living outside a valid marriage “with an opposite-sex or same-sex partner.” The phrase was deleted in the revised proposal.

Days after he certified the proposal, McDaniel said he personally opposed the ban. “Foster parenting and adoption should be based on qualifications and what is in the best interest of a child, not sexual orientation,” he said.

Gov. Mike Beebe also opposed the measure, saying it goes too far with its adoption restrictions. Beebe has said that under current law, judges have more control over adoptions to rule on a case-by-case basis what’s in the best interest of a child.

McDaniel was out of the country Wednesday, but spokesman Gabe Holmstrom said McDaniel would reserve comment on the revised measure until after it goes through the certification process in his office. Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample declined comment because the office had not seen the revised measure as of Wednesday morning.

Family Council will have to collect more than 61,000 signatures of valid voters by July 7, 2008, to get the measure on the general election ballot. Cox said if the second version is certified, the group would circulate it rather than two similar measures.

The initiated act would effectively reinstate a ban on gay foster parents that Arkansas’ highest court has struck down. The Family Council this year had backed legislation that would have banned gays and lesbians, as well as unmarried couples living together, from adopting or fostering children.

During the legislative session last spring, the state Senate voted to pass the ban but the plan failed in a House committee after Beebe said the measure had constitutional problems.

Wednesday, Cox predicted that if the new proposal becomes law and faces a court challenge, it would pass review. He said many laws state reasons for their passage, such as laws that declare smoking bad for a person’s health or laws setting certain ages for people to drive or marry as in the public’s best interest.

“This is an extremely reasonable finding,” Cox said of the revised version that finds married couples make the best parents for children.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007.

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