Alex Blaze

ACLU files suit in Arkansas to overturn Act 1

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 02, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: adoption rights, Arkansas, best interests of the child, child care, foster parenting, initiative act 1, lbt, lesbian, politics, states, unmarried couples

I don't know why, but I was much more upset that Arkansas's Act 1, which banned unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children in an attempt to overturn their supreme court decision that found the ban on gay adoption unconstitutional, passed than California's Prop 8. As asinine as it is, "I think marriage is one man and one woman" didn't seem to compare to "I will hurt children to hate you."

So I'm glad Arkansas's ACLU is filing suit to overturn try to overturn the initiative:

"Act 1 violates the state's legal duty to place the best interest of children above all else," Marie-Bernarde Miller, a Little Rock attorney in the lawsuit, told the Associated Press.

The group filed the suit on behalf of 29 adults and children from more than a dozen families. The families claim the act's language was confusing and voters were therefore misled.

Arkansas ACLU's site has some of the stories of the plaintiffs up on their site.

Curtis Chatham and Shane Frazier

Curtis Chatham, 38, works as a speech therapist and lives in Little Rock with his partner of seven years, Shane Frazier, 35, a hospital administrator. Curtis and Shane have talked about adopting a child for some time, and they say they started talking about it more seriously after a private child placement organization visited their church and talked to the congregation about the need for good homes for the many children in need in Arkansas.

After that, the couple visited the DHS website and found a child they wanted to adopt, a boy whose four siblings had all been adopted but he hadn't been placed because, at age 12, he was a little older than the others. Curtis and Shane prayed together and talked about it for a few days, and then made plans to go into the DHS office to start the process for adoption the day after the election, hoping that Act 1 wouldn't pass.

It's not just all same-sex couples.

Kaytee Wright and Alan Leveritt

Kaytee Wright is 40 years old and lives on a farm in Cabot with her partner of five years, Alan Leveritt. Kaytee helps Alan raise his 8-year-old daughter from his previous marriage, of whom he has joint custody. Kaytee is a personal children's sports performance coach and has worked with children through various organizations, including camps for special needs children, summer activity camps, sports performance camps, and church activities. Together she and Alan are also providing a home and financial assistance to a mother and her two young children through a Little Rock shelter for the working homeless.

Kaytee was adopted from state care when she was just 4 weeks old, and her older brother was adopted from state care two years earlier, when he was 6 weeks old. Kaytee's parents had waited eight years to adopt through the state system. Kaytee credits her parents with giving her a wonderful model for parenting, and she feels very strongly that good homes should be provided to children in the state system. Kaytee and Alan host and assist children with special needs. Kaytee would like to adopt a child but cannot because she and Alan aren't married.

Prior to Act 1 passing, Kaytee had been in contact with DHS about being a foster parent. She was ready to take the mandatory parenting classes for potential foster parents, but eventually she was told that because Act 1 passed, she could not take the classes.

Kaytee was married once for three years and Alan has been married twice, for 19 years the first time and for five years the second time, and he does not want to marry again. Kaytee doesn't want to have to choose between the life she has built with Alan and his daughter and giving other children a loving home.

People who don't want to get married shouldn't have to - there's no evidence that that sheet of paper suddenly makes people better parents.

One of these plaintiffs gets it right about how this law has nothing to do with the betterment of children and everything to do with how much autonomy families have to decide what happens with their children and with their families:

Wincie Gladish and Becky Bryant; Teresa May

Wincie and Becky live in North Little Rock and have been together 35 years. Wincie just celebrated her 70th birthday and Becky is 61. Six years ago they were part of a group that founded the New Beginnings Church in North Little Rock, a nondenominational congregation that welcome LGBT people. The couple spends a lot of time with their grandchildren - camping, fishing, reading, going to ball games, and other fun family activities.

The couple raised Wincie's two biological daughters from the ages of 10 and 12. The younger daughter, Teresa, who is now 45, has five children, the youngest of whom are still minors. The girls' father is deceased and Teresa's husband of six years is in active duty in the Air Force. If something were to happen to Teresa, she wants Wincie and Becky to adopt her 16 and 17-year-old children.

Teresa works with autistic children, many of whom come from dysfunctional homes. She says it breaks her heart to see what a child goes through when he or she doesn't have a stable, loving home environment like she grew up in with Wincie and Becky. She is very hurt that the state of Arkansas would deny her the right to determine who her children are adopted by if something happens to her.

Act 1 went into effect yesterday and it doesn't affect children who were already placed with unmarried couples. Single people who aren't in cohabiting, sexual relationships can still adopt and foster.

We'll see how this lawsuit ends up. They have a point, but overturning one of these initiatives is usually an uphill battle.


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Those who value and support ACLU civil-rights litigation need to know that the ACLU is being hit hard by the Madoff scam. Two major foundations -- that would have provided $850,000 in ACLU funding for 2009 -- were hit so hard by the scam that they had to close down, according to a message that ACLU members just got.

So -- anybody who can spare a little extra for donations to the ACLU right now, please go to their website and help out.

Disclosure: I am a long-time card-carrying member of the ACLU, and am making this appeal on my own. While I don't agree with them on absolutely every point, I think the organization performs a super-important service on behalf of civil liberties for Americans.

Alex, I felt similarly about the Prop 8 /Prop 1 feelings. I have always been very vocal about marriage equality, but just as important in my eyes is adoption rights.

I think you hit the nail on the head as well about why. I can take a beating. Hell, I've done it for this long, I can take it a bit longer. But I can't stand that children are being denied truly loving homes simply because the adoptive parents are married or are gay.

A loving home is a loving home. There should be absolutely no distinction.

Glad that they're trying, anyway. Hope it gets overturned!

The ACLU Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights Project litigated the last lawsuit against Arkansas's ban on gay foster parenting. They won. That's what precipitated the initiative passed by the voters in November. The ACLU has an awesome set of lawyers. They've assembled a group of expert witnesses with unassailable credentials -- decades of work on parenting, children, and child development. I'm hopeful this case will invalidate the initiative, which will mean invalidating the right-wing argument that children suffer unless they are raised by a married (and preferably biological) mother and father.

As asinine as it is, "I think marriage is one man and one woman" didn't seem to compare to "I will hurt children to hate you."

Bingo. Amen, Alex.

I am a straight lgbt civil rights activist living in Arkansas. I am also a mother of an anti-gay hate crime victim. In 1998 our new governor, Mike Huckabuck, first action was to form a new committee whose first action was to not only ban gay folks from being foster parents but parents/hetero adults who had lgbt children living in the same home.

My husband and I had been taking in lgbt children for several years and enjoined aclu to represent us and a few others to challenge this. It became the first anti-gay legislation that had a hetero plaintiff to challenge such.

Bill, my husband was the plaintiff who testified, Leslie Cooper, David Ivers, Rita Sklar and others from aclu spent untold hours and monies to undo this vicious policy/statute. You see, their hate even extended to straight allies/parents and toward lgbt youth in that for us to continue to be foster parents we would have had to kick our own young son out of his home.

We even had this nut, Jerry Cox say to me one year during a session of our state legislature, that if there was a way to identify lgbt children he would also push for segregated public schools similiar to the policy the boy scouts have.

Jerry Cox has headed the Arkansas Family Council now for over a decade and we have bumped heads many times. Two years ago I was assaulted by a couple of goons claiming to represent "southern league" who said they would not tolerate aclu queer loving types living in their backyard. The assault broke my back and with surgery I have limited use of my legs and chronic pain. This only slowed my work temporarily.

ACLU is the only lgbt friendly legal group we have in our state and this is true for a few other states as well. Even pflag cannot survive in our hate filled communities. We do not have the people nor funds to compete with Jerry Cox and his kind. Please help them if you can, even five dollars. More can be found about the previous case at www.aclu.org and click on AR.

The case was filed in the same court and judge who overturned it the last time and the previous win gives us a heads up. Make no mistake, these people do not give a hoot about homeless/abused/neglected children, especially lgbt youth. More information about the group I work closely with and co-founded is www.fuah.org (Families United Against Hate). Please do not hesistate to refer anyone who may need our help. We seek no funds and our help is based on our own experiences of dealing with law enforcement, media, hostile groups and so forth.

Thank you for posting this most crucial action in our state and giving aclu credit they deserve. I must also add that Lambda Legal out of NY was very helpful and help us with the lgbt children currently in foster care here that is abusive.