Sen. Shawn Womack and the Arkansas Family Council returned with supporting hateocrats at a reconvened meeting of the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon to make a last-ditch effort to push the gay punishment bill. A "do pass" motion was made. It clearly failed on a voice vote. It appears dead for the session. Rep. Steve Harrelson's blog reported the action.
The Family Council, who we can thank for going way too far in drafting of this bill to prohibit adoptiion and foster parenting by gay people, even of family members, offers its take on the action in a release I"ve reprinted in full on the jump. Jerry Cox of the Family Council blames Benny Petrus, the governor and Rep. Kathy Webb. Sounds about right. Except we'd use the word "credit," not "blame."
Also on the jump: A portion of the ACLU news release.
STATEMENT OF JERRY COX OF THE FAMILY COUNCIL
Senate Bill 959, a bill by Sen. Shawn Womack (R) of Mountain Home, would ban homosexuals from adopting children or serving as foster parents. The bill failed twice on Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee. After hearing almost 2 hours of public testimony the bill failed in the committee on Tuesday morning because none of the twenty members of the committee would make a motion to pass the bill. The committee adjourned and it appeared that the bill had failed without a vote being taken. However, the committee reconvened on Tuesday afternoon. Rep. Jon Woods (R) from Springdale presented the bill on behalf of Sen. Womack. Rep. Woods explained to the committee that he had intended to give the bill a “do pass” motion in the committee, but had failed to realize that the Chairman was calling for the motion. Committee Chairman Robert Jeffery, (D) Camden, allowed Rep. Woods to present the bill and make the motion. This time the bill failed on a “voice vote.” This means that the roll was not called and members simply voted “aye” or “no” in unison. More members voted against the bill than for it. The chair ruled that the bill failed on the voice vote.
House rules permit the bill to be brought up again in the committee and it is possible for the entire House membership to suspend the rules and bring the bill out of committee. However, neither of these options seems likely at this point.
Why did this bill fail?
1. Speaker of the House Benny Petrus assigned the bill to the House Judiciary Committee. In previous years, the House Aging, Children, Youth, and Military Affairs Committee has dealt with this issue. Had the bill been assigned to that committee it would have likely passed. When asked, members of the house, the press, and others who lobby at the Capitol agreed that by sending the bill to the Judiciary Committee, Speaker of the House Petrus effectively killed the bill.
2. The Governor made it known that he had concerns about the constitutionality of the bill. Obviously this had a “chilling” effect on support for the bill. Members of the legislature told Family Council that they believed the Governor was undermining the bill.
3. State Rep. Kathy Webb (D) of Little Rock, the only openly lesbian member of the Legislature, is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. She persuaded enough members of the committee to either vote against the bill or to simply not attend the meeting.
FROM THE ACLU
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today cheered the decision of the Arkansas House committee today to reject SB 959, a bill that would have banned gay people and most unmarried heterosexual couples who live together from adopting or serving as foster parents.
“Child welfare research and scientific evidence have shattered the myth about the suitability of gay parents, and legislators hearing real stories from families who would have been hurt by this bill really brought it home,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “The Arkansas legislature realized this is bad policy as well as bad law.”
Scores of people crowded into the House Judiciary Committee meeting at the Arkansas State Capital to observe this morning’s hearing. Among those who testified against SB 959 were:
• Randi Romo and her granddaughter Devon, a lesbian and the teenage honor student she is raising because the girl’s mother is chronically ill. Both wants Romo to be able to adopt her granddaughter if Devon’s mother dies.
• Shannon Hughes and Shay Stout, a lesbian and the son she and her partner have been raising since he was born 15 years ago. Both feared that the ban would sever their relationship if Stout’s biological mother dies.
• Dr. Eddie Ochoa, a pediatrician and the vice president of the Arkansas Academy of Pediatrics, who explained the decades of scientific research showing that gay people make just as good parents as heterosexuals and discussed the many child welfare organizations that are opposed to bans like SB 959.
• Judge Joyce Williams Warren, a circuit judge in Pulaski and Perry counties with 24 years of experience in child and family cases who said that even though the title of the bill purported to be about protecting the children who are most vulnerable, the bill would do the exact opposite
Only two people testified in favor of the bill. One of them, Walt McKay, a counselor from Mountain Home, contradicted his own position when he conceded that he was in favor of deciding placements on a case-by-case basis, prompting an eruption of applause from bill opponents.