Ark. Supreme Court strikes down adoption ban

The Arkansas Supreme Court today upheld a lower court’s ruling striking down the state’s 2008 adoption ban as unconstitutional.

Act 1, which Arkansas voters approved by a margin of 57 percent three years ago, prohibited unmarried couples who live together, including same-sex couples, from adopting.

But in a decision published without dissent this morning, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the ban violates’ couples’ right to privacy.

“We hold that a fundamental right to privacy is at issue in this case and that, under the Arkansas Constitution, sexual co-habitors have the right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial intimacy in the privacy of their homes,” the court wrote. “We further hold that this right is jeopardized by Act 1 which precludes all sexual cohabitors, without exception, from eligibility for parenthood, whether by means of adoption or foster care. …”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, today’s decision leaves only Mississippi and Utah that ban adoption for unmarried couples, including same-sex couples.

“The Arkansas Supreme Court has removed a discriminatory barrier for loving gay and lesbian couples who, child welfare experts agree, are equally able parents,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “Too many children are in need of a loving home and the court has rightfully put their interests ahead of discrimination.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which organized the lawsuit challenging Act 1, is expected to hold a press conference later today.

Read the Supreme Court’s full opinion here.

—  John Wright

Arkansas Supreme Court grants visitation rights to non-biological co-mom

Justice Donald L. Corbin

In a 5-2 decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 17 that a non-biological lesbian co-parent should be granted visitation rights.

In the case of Bethany v. Jones, the high court upheld the ruling of a lower court, even though Arkansas law forbids adoption by cohabiting same-sex couples. The decision was written by Associate Justice Donald L. Corbin.

The decision lists these as undisputed facts:

Bethany and Jones were same-sex partners from 2000 until 2008.

In 2003, the parties purchased a home together, with both of their names listed on the mortgage.

In 2004, the parties began to take steps toward having a family. A male friend of Jones’s agreed to donate sperm. Bethany agreed to carry the child because Jones was experiencing some health issues, including reproductive problems.

Through the process of artificial insemination, Bethany became pregnant, and the minor child was born in 2005.

After the child’s birth, Jones stayed home with the child and her parents became the child’s grandparents. Bethany has no relationship with her family so they were not involved in the child’s care.

In 2008, the couple split up. At that time, they shared custody. But Bethany began a relationship with another woman who is also raising a child and she wanted to end Jones’ involvement and denied her visitation rights.

Jones’ filed for breach of contract. Bethany charged her former partner had no standing.

The court found Jones’ claims similar to that of a step-parent and decided that since they had planned to raise the child together at the time of birth and Jones had provided care for the child until the break up, she did have visitation rights.

—  David Taffet

Arkansas officials, right-wing group appeal judge’s ruling striking down gay adoption ban

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The state Department of Human Services and a conservative group have appealed a judge’s ruling that struck down Arkansas’ voter-approved ban on unmarried couples serving as foster or adoptive parents.

The case is now before the Arkansas Supreme Court, after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled in April that the ban is unconstitutional. The high court set a Sept. 21 deadline for legal briefs in the case after the state and the Family Action Council Committee appealed the ruling.

Voters approved the ban in November 2008. It bars unmarried couples from fostering or adopting children, and effectively prohibits gays and lesbians from doing so because same-sex marriage is illegal in Arkansas.

The high court could hear oral arguments in the case as soon as this fall.

—  John Wright