The Arkansas supreme court ruled Thursday that a 2008 ballot initiative that barred gay and lesbian couples from adopting children was unconstitutional.
The court ruled that such a policy, while never enforced, would violate an adult's right to privacy in their bedroom, according to the Associated Press.
"Act 1 directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights of 'opposite-sex and same-sex individuals' who engage in private, consensual sexual conduct in the bedroom by foreclosing their eligibility to foster or adopt children," Associate Justice Robert L. Brown wrote. The court also wrote that imposing a categorical ban on anyone who was not in a heterosexual marriage from adopting or fostering children, would keep many children away from suitable, responsible homes.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state over the ballot initiative, known as Act 1, on behalf of several parents, couples, and children who would be affected by the policy if it were enforced.
Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, called the ruling a "relief for the over 1,600 children in the state of Arkansas who need a permanent family." She added, "This ban wouldn’t even allow a relative — gay or straight— to foster or adopt a child with whom they had a close relationship, so long as that relative was unmarried and living with a partner. The court clearly saw that this ban violated the constitutional rights of our clients and thousands of other Arkansans."
Wendy Rickman and her partner of 11 years, Stephanie Huffman, welcomed the news, as they had adopted a special needs foster child.
"We feel that the court thoroughly reviewed the facts of the case and ruled accordingly," Rickman said in a statement. "We look forward to the opportunity to go through the adoption process once more and to welcome another child into our family."
The ruling leaves Mississippi and Utah as the only two states that enforce adoption bans on unmarried couples, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The Virginia State Board of Social Services is also expected to decide whether to approve former governor Tim Kaine's proposed policy to prevent discrimination based on family status by child welfare agencies in the adoption process. Gov. Bob McDonnell has until April 16 to present his own suggestions to the board, but he has indicated that he opposes such regulations.