Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled today that Act 1, an initiated act approved by voters in 2008 that bans any unmarried person living with a partner from serving as an adoptive parent, is unconstitutional, and amounts to an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Jerry Cox of the Family Council, the group who sponsored Act 1 and fought for its passage, called the decision "judicial tyranny" and says they plan to appeal the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Here is a copy of Judge Piazza's order. Piazza writes, "Due Process and Equal Protection are not hollow words without substance. They are rights enumerated in our constitution that must not be construed in such a way as to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people."
Holly Dickson, with ACLU Arkansas, says the ban on adoption was too broad and excluded potentially good foster parents. "This is going to allow the state of Arkansas to consider all potentially good homes for kids who are in state custody that sorely need them. At this point, considering that Arkansas courts have twice found that bans like this do not protect children, I would hope that we could move on past this issue."
In January of 2009, Leslie Peacock profiled two of the plaintiffs in the case, Stephanie Huffman and Wendy Rickman, a Conway couple who were prevented by Act 1 from adopting again.
UPDATE: We just talked to Huffman, who is "ecstatic" about the decision. "It's made my entire weekend. Entire year."
She said she and Rickman hope to grow their family with another adopted child or siblings once the legal issues are finally settled. "As traumatic as this process has been, it's been amazing as well," Huffman said. "We are blessed with wonderful friends and colleagues." Their sons, now 6 and 8, are "growing, changing and they're the love of our lives."
UPDATE II: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel weighs in with this statement:
"My duty as Attorney General is to defend the laws of this state. The attorneys in our office have done just that. Although I have never supported this act, our office has advised and defended DHS throughout this process. A number of factors will have to be considered and evaluated before a decision is made as to whether an appeal would be in the best interests of the state."