The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a state law barring same-sex couples from adopting. The opinion was unanimous and said that the law violated individuals’ right to privacy. Supporters of the law have promised to fight the ruling.
Arkansas voters approved the ballot measure that prohibits unmarried, romantic couples who live together from adopting children in 2008. Utah has a very similar law on the books, despite recent efforts to repeal the law last legislative session.
“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, should they choose to cohabit with their sexual partner,” the court ruled in an opinion.
This leaves only Mississippi with an explicit ban on unmarried, co-habitating couples from adopting. This could lend even more support for legal action against the law, said Will Carlson, an attorney of law and a former employee of Equality Utah.
“The Arkansas law was basically a Xerox of Utah’s,” Carlson said. “And there’s no telling exactly how a (Utah) court would rule, but it does leave an opening.”
There are no current legal challenges to the second-parent adoption law in Utah, but this does lend more credibility to striking down the law, he said. The ruling said it is an invasion of privacy to say that a romantic couple cannot adopt children, where a single person could.
“The ruling said it’s not the government’s business what happens in the bedroom,” Carlson said.
The Utah law does not specifically target gay people, unlike the Mississippi law which singles out queer people. But the law says only couples that are married can adopt, and since gay people cannot get married, it bars gay couples from adopting.
Last session, a bill was introduced to allow for second-parent adoptions but it never made it to the full Senate floor.