Sunday, January 04, 2009

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Arkansas Ban On Gay Parents

-via Gay News Blog

LITTLE ROCK– The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down a new law that bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner from serving as an adoptive or foster parent in the state of Arkansas.

At a press conference at the Arkansas State Capitol this morning, several of the plaintiffs described how Act 1, which is set to go into effect on January 1, impacts their families and why they decided to be part of the case.

Stephanie Huffman, who already adopted one child from the state in 2004, was one of the plaintiffs who spoke at today's press conference. Huffman and her partner of 10 years, Wendy Rickman, want to adopt another child or a pair of siblings through the Department of Children and Family Services, but now can't because of Act 1. "The state already knows we're good enough parents that they placed one child with us before Act 1 passed," said Huffman. "Who knows how many children are now cut off by this law from loving homes?"

Among the plaintiffs and their families are:

Sheila Cole: Sheila lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Jennifer, her partner of nine years. Sheila's adult daughter from an earlier relationship had a baby girl in May of 2008 who was placed in the Arkansas foster care system when she was two months old. Sheila wants to adopt her granddaughter and is the relative best able to take in the baby. Every week she makes a four-hour round trip to Bentonville for two hours of visitation with her granddaughter. Sheila has taken foster parenting classes with Oklahoma's DHS and has passed a home study. She is now waiting for approval from Arkansas, but she's worried she might not be approved to adopt her own granddaughter because of Act 1.
Frank Pennisi and Matt Harrison; Meredith and Benny Scroggin: Frank and Matt have been together for eight years and live together in Little Rock and would like to become foster or adoptive parents. Matt's cousin, Meredith Scroggin, and her husband Benny want Frank and Matt to be able to adopt their two daughters in the event of their death.

Cary and Trina Kelley: Cary and his wife, Trina, have two young daughters and live across the road in Fayetteville from Cary's mother Vickie Kelley and her partner Sophia Estes. Sophia and Vickie have been together 16 years, and cumulatively have three children and six grandchildren. If anything were to happen to Cary and Trina, who held their wedding in Vickie and Sophia's backyard, they want Vickie and Sophia to be able to adopt their children. Trina, Cary's wife, spent many years of her childhood in state care and she feels very strongly that children who need homes shouldn't be cut off from loving relatives like Sophia and Vickie.

Kaytee Wright: Kaytee Wright lives on a farm in Cabot with her partner of five years, Alan Leveritt. Kaytee helps Alan raise his eight-year-old daughter from his previous marriage, of whom he has joint custody. 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 four weeks old, and she feels very strongly that good homes should be provided to children in the state system. Kaytee would like to adopt a child but cannot because she and Alan aren't married.

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