The Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday upheld [opinion, PDF] a lower court decision invalidating a state ban on adoptions by same-sex couples. The court affirmed the decision of the Pulaski County Circuit Court [official website] invalidating Act 1 [ACLU backgrounder], a state law which prohibits all unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children in the state. The court held that the "fundamental privacy rights, which are implicit in the Arkansas Constitution, are substantially and directly burdened by Act 1's prohibition against the ability of cohabiting sexual partners to foster or adopt children." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which brought the suit on behalf of 20 individuals claiming the law unfairly discriminated against them, welcomed the ruling [press release], calling it "a relief for the over 1,600 children in the state of Arkansas who need a permanent family."
The original suit was filed after the law was criticized for effectively denying all gay couples the right to adopt or foster a child because Arkansas does not recognize gay marriage. The lower court made its decision to strike down Act 1 last year after the law was passed by ballot initiative in November 2008 following certification [JURIST reports] the previous August. The measure followed a 2006 Arkansas Supreme Court decision [text, PDF] that struck down an administrative regulation [JURIST report] specifically prohibiting homosexuals from rearing foster children. Reacting to that decision, then-governor Mike Huckabee suggested that such a ban be implemented through legislation [JURIST report]. Arkansas, like many states, has amended its constitution to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive].