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

DA Craig Watkins says Club Dallas charges were dismissed based on U.S. Constitution

On Wednesday we reported that charges have now been dismissed or rejected against all 11 men arrested in the Dallas Police Department’s October raid of The Club Dallas, a gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum.

Today, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins for the first time publicly addressed the reasons behind his office’s dismissal of the charges, issuing a one-sentence statement.

“Based upon the U. S. Constitution and the applicable Texas statute, the elements of the offense were unprovable,” Watkins said.

Watkins didn’t specify which portion of the Constitution he was referring to, but undoubtedly it’s the right to privacy.

Seven of the men were charged with public lewdness, which is defined as sexual intercourse or sexual contact in a public place. However, defense attorneys have raised questions about whether the confines of the Club Dallas are considered a public place under the law.

Three of the men were charged with indecent exposure, which is defined as exposing one’s genitals with the intent to arouse or gratify and in a manner that is “reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed …” But defense attorneys say it’s difficult to argue that sex in a bathhouse is recklessly offensive when all members typically sign waivers saying they acknowledge it takes place.

—  John Wright

Richard Chamberlain advises actors to not come out, claims he came out in 2003. Oh pu-leese!

Richard Chamberlain

In an interview in the Advocate this week, Richard Chamberlain talked about the danger for young leading man-type actors who come out.

He’s right about one thing. Hollywood is still very closeted despite Will & Grace, Modern Family or the show he’s now appearing on, Brothers & Sisters. The article says he came out in 2003.

Chamberlain was one of the biggest teen heartthrobs of the early 1960s when he played the title role on Dr. Kildare, the debonnaire young doctor on one of TV’s first medical shows.

In the 1970s, I was working in a store on 5th Avenue in New York City. By then, black-and-white television shows were long forgotten. TV Land and Nick at Night hadn’t been thought of. Cable was mostly for places that had no other TV reception.

Chamberlain was a regular customer in our store. He always shopped with his boyfriend. No one in the store thought anything about it. Chamberlain was gay. Everyone knew it. He was just a friendly former TV star shopping with his boyfriend. There was no secret and no one really cared.

So when he advises actors not to come out just as he didn’t, he’s really just fooling himself. When he “came out” in 2003, about as many people were surprised by the announcement as when Ricky Martin announced earlier this year that he was gay. Will people be equally shocked by an announcement from Jodie Foster?

Although everyone has a right to privacy, if someone is living his life pretty openly, he shouldn’t be shocked or annoyed that people know he’s gay. In fact, he’s fooling himself if he thinks people didn’t.

He may have only done the big Advocate interview in 2003, but everyone he came in contact with knew he was gay since his Dr. Kildare days. And that includes the people at studios who were hiring him. I knew him in the mid-70s.  His sexual orientation didn’t prevent him from getting the biggest role in his career when he starred in The Thornbirds in the early ’80s.

—  David Taffet