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Ark. passes ban on unmarried adoptions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Voters in Arkansas approved a measure preventing adoptive or foster care children from being placed in homes with couples who live together out of wedlock, whether those adults are heterosexual or homosexual. Nearly 57 percent of voters supported the ban.

The Arkansas Family Council Action Committee gathered about 90,000 signatures to put Proposed Initiative Act No. 1 on the ballot, hoping to replicate their successful effort at passing a marriage amendment in the state four years ago.

“We are obviously elated and surprised ourselves at the margin of victory. Going into it, the most recent poll had shown 55 percent opposition to the act. So we obviously went into it with some trepidation,” John Thomas, vice president of the family organization, told Baptist Press Nov. 5.

“Much money had been poured in to defeat the act from out-of-state, pro-gay individuals — millionaires,” Thomas said. “They had bought a lot of media, a lot of television, and just flooded the markets. Lo and behold, when it was all said and done, we came out victorious by a wide margin. We are just thrilled today.”

Jerry Cox, president of the family council, said before the vote that the Arkansas Adoption and Foster Care Act was a response to a homosexual political agenda at work in other states.

“This agenda uses children to advance the goals of special interest groups. Homosexuals in California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont have successfully used adoptive or foster care children to advance their agenda,” Cox said on the group’s website. “Activists in these states have already secured passage of laws that support adoption or foster care by homosexuals.”

Since Arkansas had no law on the books to prevent a similar strategy, Cox said the measure was necessary to prevent the state’s children from being used to promote a social or political agenda.

Cox also said the campaign to pass the act was designed to increase the number of families willing to adopt or serve as foster parents. In addition to circulating petitions, volunteers encouraged families to consider meeting the needs of children in Arkansas who are without homes.

“Children are the ones who are the real winners because now they will be protected from any effort to try to use them as pawns in a political agenda,” Thomas told BP. “And on a practical level, they will be protected from being placed in homes that the research indisputably says is on the low end of the scale in terms of child outcomes — cohabiting homes. The most important thing now, I think, for anybody who supported the act is to step up, get foster training and get involved in helping provide some great homes for these kids.”

A 2003 study for the Center for Law and Social Policy cited data showing that the average cohabiting union lasts only two years. The same study showed that cohabiting relationships that do result in marriage have a “much higher” divorce rate than couples who do not live together before marriage.

“Children living with cohabiting parents — even if the parents later marry — are thus likely to experience considerable instability in their living situations,” the study concluded.

In addition to stability, studies show children in a married household with a mother and a father are less likely to be poor, are healthier, are less likely to be physically abused and tend to do better in school. Conservatives also note that states placing children in homosexual homes are intentionally creating either a father-less or a mother-less home.

Messengers to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Oct. 28-29 passed a resolution in support of the adoption and foster care act. The resolution on “children at risk” encouraged legislators “to craft legislation, rules and regulations that undergird the biblical ideal for the home.” It acknowledged “our failure to serve children” and urged Arkansas Baptists to “provide the foster homes and adoptive parents that are sorely needed by the children at risk in our state.”

Only Utah has passed a similar law banning adoption by all couples living together before marriage. The Arkansas measure came after a 2006 state Supreme Court decision that struck down a policy banning homosexual foster parents.

“I think the voters realized that this was about child welfare rather than the rights of adults,” Cox told the Associated Press after the vote.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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