Ban On Unmarried Adoptions On Ark. Ballot

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A proposal aimed at effectively banning gays and lesbians from becoming foster or adoptive parents was cleared Monday to appear on this fall's ballot in Arkansas.

The measure would prohibit unmarried couples living together from fostering or adopting children, and Arkansas doesn't allow gays to marry or recognize gay marriages conducted elsewhere.

Secretary of State Charlie Daniels certified the proposed initiated act for the Nov. 4 ballot after verifying that the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee had submitted 85,389 valid signatures of registered voters. Supporters needed to turn in at least 61,974 valid signatures.

"Arkansas needs to affirm the importance of married mothers and fathers," Family Council President Jerry Cox said. "We need to publicly affirm the gold standard of rearing children whenever we can. The state standard should be as close to that gold standard of married mom and dad homes as possible."

The Family Council campaign is a response to a 2006 Arkansas Supreme Court decision striking down a state policy that specifically banned gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents.

The ballot measure would take the place of a state policy that currently bars unmarried couples living together from serving as foster parents.

The measure faces the threat of a lawsuit from groups who say that it unfairly discriminates against unmarried couples and limits the number of foster and adoptive homes available for children.

Arkansas Families First is campaigning against the measure and has said it plans to file a lawsuit to keep it from appearing on the November ballot. Debbie Willhite, a lead consultant for the group, said last week that the group has found signatures that should have been rejected by the state as invalid and that the group also plans to challenge the constitutionality of the measure.

"We're going to work very hard to defeat this because it is just bad policy for children," Willhite said.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel opposes the proposed initiated act but said last week that he was confident it could survive a legal challenge.

Cox said the Family Council will rely on support from the same network of churches that helped it pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2004.

The Family Council's campaign had a debt of nearly $2,800 as of July 31. By comparison, Arkansas Families First reported more than $45,000 in the bank for its efforts to fight the measure.
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