Update: Act 1 hearing | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Update: Act 1 hearing

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 2:26 PM

A hearing is underway regarding the constitutionality of Act 1, an initiated act approved by voters in 2008 that bans any unmarried person living with a partner from serving as an adoptive parent. The ACLU is challenging Act 1, saying it violates federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. Judge Chris Piazza will decide to throw the case out, declare the law unconstitutional or allow the case to go to trial. Leslie Peacock is on hand and will have a report on today's proceedings later in the day.


Piazza has taken the motions under advisement and says he'll issue a decision "well before" the May 5 trial date. His decision came at the conclusion of the three and a half hour hearing in which Stacie Friedman, attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Piazza to "rescue us. Rescue these kids. Let the people who want to adopt them adopt them."

Friedman's wording followed assistant AG Colin Jorgensen's earlier plea to the judge to "Rescue us from the misery of this litigation." (To which a smiling Piazza responded that a ruling for the plaintiffs would have the same effect, prompting Jorgensen to amend his request to rule in favor of the state.)

Attorneys for the AG's office and the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Ariz., argued that, in effect, the the act allowed the state to streamline its process of placing children in foster or adoptive care by allowing it to omit from consideration a group -- cohabiting adults -- that statistics show have a higher rate of neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. The law "protects the very lives of children," Joe Cordi of the AG's office said. "Don't the problems go to the screening process?" Piazza asked Cordi, who said that it was a screening process to omit cohabitants, who he said are "on average as a group" dangerous to children.

Friedman, who represents Stephanie Huffman and Wendy Rickman, adoptive parents of two boys who would like to adopt more children, said they represented a class of people who are committed to each other and to the idea of adoption. There's no evidence, she said, that unmarried couples who foster and adopt children are dangerous.

Friedman the fact that the law allows same-sex and other unmarried couples to be guardians is irrational; Jorgensen countered that guardianship implied a "pre-existing relationship," which made the exception more, rather than less, rational.

Byron Babione of the Alliance said Act 1 also benefits children in that it makes sure children experience the ideal of "married parenting."


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