While we usually include more personal law office news in the second article of the newsletter, there was just too much good news for the LGBT Community to skip this one. In late 2008, I wrote about the elections and problems with referendums. While several state constitutional bans on gay marriage were troubling, most of the rights married couples enjoy can be duplicated through legal partner protection planning. One right that can’t be replaced is the legal right to be an adoptive or foster parent, and in 2008 Arkansas took that right away from unmarried persons who live with a partner. In a state that bans gay marriage, it effectively meant a ban on parenting for partners unless one was actually a biological parent.
But that referendum was overturned last week when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Christopher C. Piazza overturned the law as unconstitutional. “The Act significantly burdens non-marital relationships and acts of sexual intimacy between adults because it forces them to choose between becoming a parent and having any meaningful type of intimate relationship outside of marriage,” Piazza wrote in his two-page ruling. “This infringes upon the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens of Arkansas.”
While it is likely that this issue will be appealed, for now we can celebrate the good news. And while people like Arkansas Family Action Council President Jerry Cox will say things like the decision is a “classic example of judicial tyranny,” (as if people weren’t saying the same thing about Civil Rights court decisions in the 1960s) it is probably more important to hear the words of Judge Piazza: “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.”
For a copy of Judge Piazza’s order, please click here.