Leader Blues

Friday, January 02, 2009

EDITORIAL >>ACLU sues to stop Act 1

The American Civil Liberties Union, already anathema to many, will make few new friends with a lawsuit that it filed Tuesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, but it should give the state’s most desperate children the chance for a better life.

On behalf of 29 children, parents and prospective parents, including a Cabot couple, the suit seeks to strike down Initiated Act 1, which Arkansas voters adopted in the general election. The law, which takes effect in mid-January, bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner from adopting a child or serving as a foster parent.

The authors of the act, who every two years come up with fresh legislation to punish gays and lesbians and in this case other unmarried couples, count on popular revulsion of homosexuality, and it works. But the victims in this instance are not homosexuals or unmarried couples but children — the most vulnerable ones in Arkansas, those who lose their parents or are abandoned, abused or neglected by them. Parents who want their children to be reared by an unmarried relative if they die are now denied that option.

The state Division of Children and Family Services, a part of the Department of Human Services, is already overwhelmed by children they cannot place in good homes. The scandalous abuse of children crammed into foster homes willing to take them for the money made headlines throughout the year. Now, the options for these children grow even smaller.

Courts have held that similar bans in other states violated federal and state constitutional guarantees of due process and the equal protection of the laws. For the sake of the children, Act 1 will meet the same fate.