googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Unwed Adoption in Arkansas: The Courts v. the People

Friday, April 16, 2010

Unwed Adoption in Arkansas: The Courts v. the People

In the November, 2008, election, a citizen-initiated state statute was on the ballot in Arkansas. Proposition 1 banned unmarried couples from adopting or providing foster care to minors. The proposition passed by a comfortable margin: 57-43. Obviously there are many reasons why such a law would be popular. One immediate consequence would be that gay and lesbian couples would be unable to adopt since same sex marriage is not legal in Arkansas. There's also a greater risk of separation if the adoptive parents aren't married. Still too, there are people who just feel that being in a home with married parents provides the best atmosphere and greatest opportunity for children. Whatever the reasons for its popularity, the measure was voted on and passed.

Today, the law was overturned by one man, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza, who said in his ruling that that people in "non-marital relationships" are forced to choose between becoming a parent and sustaining that relationship. Excuse, me, Judge Piazza, couldn't the couple just get married? Now, I know that I'm not a lawyer but shouldn't there be a little more substance to a judge's opinion? I see how such a law presents a dilemma for unmarried couples but so what? Is there some absolute right to adopt or be a foster parent?

Suppose for a moment that a person owned a film studio that made porn flicks. Such a profession would likely disqualify him from being able to adopt, right? In that case a similar dilemma would exist: he would have to choose between being a parent or continuing in his profession. How unfair is that?! You see, this smut peddler might retain his most basic, unalienable rights (free speech, freedom of religion, etc), but no one would argue he has an unalienable right to adopt. This might be an extreme example but it illustrates a simple point. In such a situation, the state retains the right to decide what is in the best interest of the child over the smut peddler's supposed right to adopt. In the case of unwed couples, the people of the state have decided that it is not in the best interest of children to allow them to adopt. For whatever the reason, that was the law.

What was it that I've heard from Democrats after every election since Bush/Gore: Republicans seek to disenfranchise voters? Cases like this shine a spotlight on the dangers of political activism. One man in a black robe went beyond his job of interpreting the law and instead set aside the law. He has chosen to substitute his own liberal preference in place of the will of the people. Courts are supposed to be our redress; judges like this make the courts our tyrants. Why even bother with an election? Perhaps we should stop voting and just let the judges decide what's best for us.

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