Foster-Care Ban Still Sought For Gays But Not Singles
Arkansas Democrat Gazette,
August 26, 1998
Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203
By Elizabeth McFarland
A state board on Tuesday abandoned its effort to prohibit unmarried people from being
foster parents but will research whether it could continue with its proposed ban on
The nine-member Child Welfare Agency Review Board appointed a committee of board
members to gather information about whether homosexuals are unfit to be foster parents.
The boards decision to continue to explore the prospect of banning homosexuals
disturbed about 25 people who attended the meeting to protest the proposed rule against
gay foster parents.
"Im very upset about that, that we would consider homosexual people less
than human," Carole Walderns of Little Rock, who said shes a single foster
parent, told the board.
Judy Matsuoka of Little Rock, director of the Womens Project, said children need
a "stable loving home" regardless of the sexual orientation of the adults in the
home. The Womens Project is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to working
Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union, told the board its proposal will compound a shortage of foster homes and cause more
children to be placed in shelters.
An "anti-gay bias" is not enough of a basis to justify prohibiting
homosexuals from serving as foster parents, Sklar said.
Pat Cross of Little Rock, who has raised six foster children, said she has opened every
aspect of her life to scrutiny to qualify as a foster parent but "I would have a
problem with opening my sexual life in order to be a foster parent."
The committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 9 to discuss the data on the issue of
homosexuals as foster parents. The board plans to meet at a later date to hear the
committees report and finalize the wording of a rule on the matter so that a 30-day
period provided for public comment on such rules may begin.
The board voted July 28 to revise licensing standards for private agencies to require
that foster parents be heterosexual married couples.
The board was created in 1997 by the Legislature to prescribe minimum licensing
standards for child-welfare agencies.
Board member Robin Woodruff of Little Rock introduced the proposal to ban singles and
homosexuals. She said she believes its in a childs best interest to have both
a mom-and-dad role model.
Woodruff did not back down from that stance Tuesday, though she acknowledged that legal
research had convinced her that it is against the law to prohibit unmarried people from
being foster parents.
Joel Landreneau, attorney for the state Department of Human Services, told the board
that the statute creating the board defines foster home as "a private residence of
one or more individuals."
He said the board could not make a rule that invalidates the law that created the
board. Woodruff agreed, and the board voted to rescind the part of the proposed rule that
sought to ban single people as foster parents.
Woodruff said she has friends and loved ones who are homosexual and she is not making
the proposal maliciously. "The state of Arkansas still has [homosexual] sodomy laws
on the books. Im aware that currently is under challenge, but right now thats
still the law. So based on that law, I believe its wrong to place our foster
children in a homosexual home," she said.
Woodruff also said she knows of two studies "which show a statistically
significant difference in the sexual orientation of a child raised in a homosexual home
compared to a heterosexual home."
She said she believes that heterosexual homes are more stable, since her research says
homosexuals have a lifetime average of 50 sexual partners while heterosexual partners have
a lifetime average of four.
Woodruff also said a heterosexual home is healthier for the child because homosexuals
are "significantly prone" to diseases such as HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, rectal
infections and intestinal diseases dubbed "gay bowel syndrome."
Landreneau said that for the board to prohibit homosexual foster parents, it must
"establish a rational relationship" between what it classifies as homosexual and
the legitimate state interest of providing for the "best interest of the child."
"For example, are there statistics indicating that persons fitting the definition
the board adopts for homosexual are any more likely to abuse children, or
commit suicide, or abuse substances?" Landreneau wrote in an analysis of the proposed
He said for the rule to stand up to court challenge it would have to define homosexual
behavior. It also would have to make exceptions for people forced to perform homosexual
acts and those who experimented with homosexual behavior in the past but are now living
heterosexual lives, Landreneau said.
He also said he was concerned about the ability of the state to enforce the proposed
rule. "An unscrupulous parent whose rights are being terminated may seek to use this
against a foster parent," Landreneau said.
Dr. Bob West of Little Rock, the only board member who opposed Woodruffs July 28
resolution, said the proposal presents problems. "Short of installing video cameras
in peoples homes, I dont see how were going to enforce this," West
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