Alex Blaze

Arkansas: Going to the polls to ban adoption by Unmarried Couples

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 02, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Act 1, adoption rights, Arkansas, ballot initiatives, foster parenting, marriage, parenting, unmarried couples

This measure would prevent unmarried, cohabiting couples from adopting or fostering children. Even though it would prevent straight, unmarried couples from adopting or fostering (and I'm sure there are far more of those than there are gay couples in Arkansas), it's directly targeted at queer couples, since FOTF's arm in that state has been trying to get it through ever since the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down their ban on gays and lesbians adopting foster parenting in 2006.

Since that decision, the state Department of Human Services expanded their ban on gay and lesbian adoption foster parenting to include all unmarried couples, until they overturned that policy and went to a case-by-case basis earlier this month.

The only poll on the matter was released October 23 and had Act 1 losing 38-55.

Here's the good guys' (Arkansas Families First) latest ad, which gets right to the point:

iPhone users: Click to watch

I couldn't find any ads from the Arkansas Family Council, the other side of this measure.

The gay and lesbian side of this measure has been winning in endorsements, with the top papers in that state, large groups of clergy, and the largest organization of adults who were in foster care endorsing a "No" on the adoption ban.

This is a case of cutting of your nose to spite your face, as the fundies would rather put children in group homes than let teh gayz parent:

The Family Council called a public hearing that triggered the change in state policy to allow unmarried couples to adopt a "sham." Jerry Cox, the president of the council's committee formed to push the act and fight the "homosexual agenda," said DHS "folded under the pressure of pro-gay groups."

Cox defended the proposed law, saying it would ensure the state use the "gold standard" -- homes headed by heterosexual married couples -- in the fostering and adoption of children.

If heterosexual married couples are the gold, are the 20 percent of licensed, single foster care parents the silver? Or would gay couples be silver and single parents be bronze?

"I'm not going to go there," Cox said. He said the Family Council did not plan to eventually take on single parents. "That's not an issue we chose to address."[...]

There are at any one time in Arkansas 3,700 kids needing foster care; there are only 1,000 eligible foster parents. Those who can't be placed in homes go to group homes or emergency shelters; many of those who are placed in foster care must make repeated moves because of a poor fit. Sixty percent of children in foster care in Arkansas are moved to three or more homes and some counties lack foster homes entirely, according to Jennifer Ferguson, deputy director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Funny how he doesn't want to address the fundamental argument in favor of this measure, that heterosexual married couples are simply so much better (at child-raising) than everyone else that group homes are preferable to any other family.

But all this talk about the children is just a cover for their homophobia. If these folks could go through the group homes and force the LGBT kids out into the street, the folks probably would do that too.

Updated to fix my slippage between "adoption" and "foster parenting." Thanks to the reader who emailed me with that one!

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William D. Lindsey William D. Lindsey | November 2, 2008 7:46 PM

Alex, this is a good summary. As a resident of Arkansas, I've been very interested in how this initiative has played out. I hope the polls turn out to be right.

In the last election, the same group was very successful at leveraging an anti-gay initiative to amend the state constitution, to bring the religious right to the polls.

They hoped to do the same thing this time, but have found that their initiative has blown up in their face. It has done so because public sentiment (even in backwards Arkansas) is slowly shifting.

But in addition, some important people and some important groups have spearheaded a very strong and successful publicity campaign to expose this initiative for the crap it is. They have worked the angle that the ban will affect not just gays (the LGBT community was the primary target of those who got the initiative going). The anti-initiative 1 group have noted that if it passes, the initiative will also affect straight unmarried couples.

One other thing: we have a Democratic governor now, and we didn't in the last election. Arkansas Democrats are conservative and to the right of some Republicans. Nonetheless, it has definitely made a difference with this initiative, to have a Democrat in the governor's office. A good reminder in the coming elections that not only the presidential election, but ALL elections are important. We need people at all levels who work to block the attempt to enshrine religious bigotry in our laws.

This initiative does seem to have a certain amount of dickishness that's missing from the other ones. I'm glad it's losing.

You know, I realize that this is a good argument. We used it here in Indiana to kill a marriage amendment.

They have worked the angle that the ban will affect not just gays (the LGBT community was the primary target of those who got the initiative going). The anti-initiative 1 group have noted that if it passes, the initiative will also affect straight unmarried couples.

But doesn't it piss you off that in order to keep our civil rights, we have to say, "But enough about us, let's talk about you!" We don't matter unless it's going to affect them; they matter more than we do somehow.

Although I think part of the problem here is that they got too far away from the gays and too abstract. I'd imagine a lot of homophobes going to the polls and not even recognizing that this one was about the gays.

I have been asking the the early voters in Eureka Springs, AR. (a blue freckle in a red state) to please vote NO to Act 1. Even in this liberal little town of intellectuals and artists, folks are asking me, What is Act 1? Then they say, to my relief "Oh, I've already voted against that one".
It is frightening when right wing conservative Christians are seeking to make a blanket decesion for the child welfare workers directly involved with these children.
I'm going back out today. Keep us in your thoughts!

I know, it's almost as if there wasn't anyone else to make the decision about where these kids could go.

William D. Lindsey William D. Lindsey | November 3, 2008 11:07 AM

Bil, you're absolutely right: it does get my dander up that, in order to gain "mainstream" support for an anti-gay initiative, we have to emphasize how that initiative might negatively affect straight folks.

I understand the strategic reasons those opposing this initiative are doing that in Arkansas. And it seems to be paying off.

Still, it's clear that the original intent of this initiative was to work homophobia to get right-wing evangelicals to the polls. So pretending it's not really about the gays only invisibilizes us in a political game in which we're being bashed!

Best hope I have for initiatives like this is that, as they fail (and they eventually will, even in the solid conservative heartland), those promoting them will realize they are alienating more and more voters by targeting the LGBT community.

"Updated to fix my slippage between "adoption" and "foster parenting." Thanks to the reader who emailed me with that one!"

Oh, it would ban both so you were (half)right on that one.

The correction was about the previous ban, not the proposed one.

michelle0224c | November 4, 2008 4:45 PM

I am a straight single female raising a special needs grandson...who although I am his sole caregiver and financial provider...I cannot adopt him. This makes a lot of sense to me...the other grandparents are sex offenders, his father has never worked and his mother (my child) is bipolar...this is just wrong. And as far as gays..what the hell is with people associating gays with pedophiles? Why are people so ignorant? Just look at public records, documentaries and psychological studies...most pedophiles are straight not gay. I pray the amendment to pass this agenda into action happens...or my vote was for nothing.