[JURIST] An Arkansas judge ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that a state law prohibiting all unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children violates the Arkansas Constitution [text, PDF]. Critics claimed that the Arkansas Adoption and Foster Care Act of 2008 [ACLU backgrounder], or Initiated Act I, was discriminatory because it prohibited all gay couples from adopting or fostering children as Arkansas does not recognize gay marriage. Judge Christopher Piazza of the Pulaski County Circuit Court [official website] agreed and said that while the the law, passed via ballot initiative, was valid under the federal Constitution, it violates the Arkansas state constitution:
Initiated Act 1 prohibits cohabiting same-sex couples and heterosexual couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents. It does not prohibit them from becoming foster or adoptive parents if they do not cohabitate. However, the act significantly burdens non-marital relationships and acts of sexual intimacy between adults and forces them to choose between becoming a parent and having any type of meaningful intimate relationship outside of the marriage. This infringes upon the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens of Arkansas.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which brought the challenge against Initiated Act I, welcomed the ruling [press release], saying it would allow more children in Arkansas to be adopted or fostered.
The ballot measure was approved in November 2008 after being certified [JURIST reports] the previous August. The measure followed a 2006 Arkansas Supreme Court decision [text, PDF] that struck down an administrative regulation [JURIST report] specifically prohibiting homosexuals from rearing foster children. Reacting to that decision, then-governor Mike Huckabee suggested that such a ban be implemented through legislation [JURIST report]. Arkansas, like many states, has amended its constitution to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive].