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From the Washignton Blade:
Arkansas appeals ruling on gay foster parents
Judge ruled state agency improperly banned gays
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) | Nov 18, 10:24 AM
The Arkansas Department of Human Services is appealing a judge's ruling that the state had improperly banned homosexuals from serving as foster parents.
The agency filed papers with the Arkansas Court of Appeals on Thursday to appeal a ruling last year by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox that the state ban on gay foster parents was unconstitutional.
Fox had ruled the Child Welfare Agency Review Board did not have authority from the legislature to craft the policy, which Fox said was based on the board's sense of public morality.
Fox also said testimony did not prove gay foster parents posed a hazard to the children.
Agency attorney Kathy L. Hall argues that Fox misapplied the law that gave the board authority to make its rules.
The ban was begun in March 1999, when the board ruled that children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they are more likely to thrive in that environment.
Four Arkansans sued, represented by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit said the four were qualified parents and had been discriminated against.
The ACLU had argued that the regulation violated the equal-protection rights of gays. In his ruling, Fox said gays are not a protected class. But the judge said banning gays did not promote the Child Welfare Agency Review Board's mission of ensuring the health, safety and welfare of children.
Fox also said that public morality, as determined by the Legislature, is a legitimate state interest, within constitutional limits. Fox noted testimony of sociologists and psychologists that gay people can be as loving and caring foster parents as heterosexuals, and that their children can be as well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual couples.
After the ruling, the Department of Human Services stopped asking whether potential foster parents were gay, DHS spokeswoman Julie Munsell said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have 30 days in which to file a response to the appeal.