A New York Times editorial today looks askance at Act 1, personified in the case of a grandmother unable to adopt her abused grandchild because she lives with someone out of wedlock.
The new law is undeniably discriminatory. Under Arkansas law, people convicted of major crimes, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor, remain eligible to adopt children or become foster parents. Single people who have no partner — or who have a large number of casual sex partners — are also eligible. Anyone who is in a committed relationship, gay or straight, but is not married is automatically barred.
The new law also interferes with the Department of Human Services’ ability to do its job of making individualized assessments of prospective parents and placing children in the homes that are best able to meet their needs. As the W.H. case suggests, an unmarried couple could be the most qualified parents. And because of the shortage of foster parents, the ban is very likely to make children wait substantially longer for a loving home.
Arkansas’s new law was a victory for the forces of bigotry and a major setback for the guiding principle of the law in adoption and foster care: the best interests of the child.