Press

Arkansas Foster Care Ban

Date: 
January 07, 1999

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force denounced a decision to ban gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in Arkansas from becoming foster parents. Yesterday, the Child Welfare Agency Review Board passed a resolution that would make Arkansas the second state to enact such a ban. As worded, the ban would prevent a child from being placed with anyone who has engaged in same-sex sexual behavior or anyone sharing a household with someone who has engaged in same-sex sexual behavior. There is a comment period, which will likely take a number of weeks and will entail five public hearings, before the ban will take effect.

"This ban is not about the welfare of children, it's about attacking and demonizing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people," said Kerry Lobel, executive director of the Task Force. "Right-wing extremists are aiming their arsenal at our families more than ever before. We will face similar battles in a number of states this year, and we will do everything in our power to face down these lies, distortions, and myths with the simple truth," added Lobel.

Arkansas would become the third state to ban gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people from adopting and/or becoming foster parents. The New Hampshire legislature passed a law banning both adoption and foster care in late 1980s. Florida passed a law banning adoption in 1977. Also, in Oklahoma, people convicted under the state's sodomy law are banned from adopting.

According to the Task Force, similar measures are likely to be introduced this year in at least three other states (IN, TX, MI). Last year, anti-adoption or anti-foster care measures were introduced in five states (AZ, CA, GA, OK, TN). All of them were defeated. Both the New Hampshire and Florida laws are currently being contested. In Florida there is a lawsuit challenging the ban, and yesterday in New Hampshire advocates introduced a bill (HB 90) that would reverse the law.

"Regulations like this are responsible for robbing thousands of needy children from loving, nurturing, supportive homes. It is time to listen to the voices of young people who know that what is important is a good parent, not a parent whose sexual orientation has been run through a government-sanctioned litmus test," said Felicia Park-Rogers, Director of the organization Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere and herself a 27-year old lesbian daughter of a gay man and a lesbian.

The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community and its allies, including the Interfaith Alliance for Equality, are organizing to prevent the ban from being enacted. "There are many serious problems with Arkansas' foster care system. Rather than using time and resources to address them, the state is wasting them on a non-issue," said Judy Matsuoka of the Little Rock-based Women's Project, and a coordinator of the efforts to block the ban.

Many organizations, including the Child Welfare League, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, and the American Psychological Association oppose the use of sexual orientation as a criteria in foster care and adoption placement.

Judy Matsuoka of the Women's Project is available at (501) 372-5113 for information about local efforts to block the ban. Felicia Park Rogers of COLAGE is available for further comment at (415) 861-5437.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.