Woo Pig Sooie!

I wasn’t going to comment on last week’s Arkansas Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s prohibition of gay foster parents. But now I want to compare it to yesterday’s display of truthiness in New York.

New York’s court of last resort, you recall, decided that “intuition and experience” justifies a state legislature’s conclusion – in the face of contrary empirical evidence – that kids are better served by straight couples. Hence, the legislature may encourage straight couples and discourage gay couples by giving marital benefits to the one but not the other.

In Arkansas, a statute gave the department of human services the authority to make rules and regulations that promote “the health, safety, and welfare of children.” Relying on that grant, DHS came up with this regulation:

No person may serve as a foster parent if any adult member of that person’s household is a homosexual. Homosexual, for purposes of this rule, shall mean any person who voluntarily and knowingly engages in or submits to any sexual contact involving the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person of the same gender, and who has engaged in such activity after the foster home is approved or at a point in time that is reasonably close in time to the filing of the application to be a foster parent.

The plaintiffs sued, arguing that the regulation exceeded the statutory delegation of authority. In other words, they argued that it had no relationship to the health, safety or welfare of children.

The test is similar to the one used in the New York case: Is the prohibition rationally related to the statute? Like the rational basis test in New York, this one is very deferential.

DHS offered the same arguments as did the state in the New York Case: Being around gay people is bad for kids. They also offered the following:

Various members of the Board, including Robin Woodruff who introduced the regulation, testified as to their guidance and reasoning behind adopting Regulation 200.3.2. Woodruff testified that, in her opinion, (1) same-sex relationships are wrong; (2) homosexual behavior is a sin; (3) homosexuality violates her biblical convictions; (4) adults who have same-sex orientation should remain celibate; and (4) she would not be a proponent of her children spending time with openly gay couples.

James Balcom, another member of the Board, testified that there were three components to his decision to vote to enact the regulation – scientific evidence, his personal beliefs including his religious beliefs, and societal mores. Balcom further testified that he believed gay relationships are immoral and that he has a moral objection to people being in a household where there is a same-sex relationship going on.

The plaintiffs countered with studies and expert opinions. After hearing both sides fully argue the issues, the trial court made the following findings of fact:

10. The defendants are aware of “homosexuals,” as defined, who have served as foster parents in Arkansas11. The defendants are not aware of any child whose health, safety, and/or welfare has been endangered by the fact that such child’s foster parent, orother household member, was “homosexual”, as defined

12. The State has no statistics indicating that gays are more prone to violence than heterosexuals or that gay households are more unhealthy than heterosexual households

13. Based on its foster care statistics the defendants do not know of any reason that lesbians and gay men would be unsuitable to be foster parents

23. The blanket exclusion may be harmful to promoting children’s healthy adjustment because it excludes a pool of effective foster parents.

. . . .

29. Being raised by gay parents does not increase the risk of problems in adjustment for children.

30. Being raised by gay parents does not increase the risk of psychological problems for children.

31. Being raised by gay parents does not increase the risk of behavioral problems.

32. Being raised by gay parents does not prevent children from forming healthy relationships with their peers or others.

33. Being raised by gay parents does not cause academic problems.

34. Being raised by gay parents does not cause gender identity problems.

. . . .

37. Children of lesbian or gay parents are equivalently adjusted to children of heterosexual parents.

38. There is no factual basis for making the statement that heterosexual parents might be better able to guide their children through adolescence than gay parents.

39. There is no factual basis for making the statement that the sexual orientation of a parent or foster parent can predict children’s adjustment.

40. There is no factual basis for making the statement that being raised by lesbian or gay parents has a negative effect on children’s adjustment.

41. There is no reason in which the health, safety, or welfare of a foster child might be negatively impacted by being placed with a heterosexual foster parent who has an adult gay family member residing in that home.

. . . .

46. There is no evidence that gay people, as a group, are more likely to engage in domestic violence than heterosexuals.

47. There is no evidence that gay people, as a group, are more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexuals.

Now is where the New York court would say “facts be darned, our intuition and experience says gay people are dangerous.” The Arkansas court, in contrast said:

there was no rational relationship between the regulation’s blanket exclusion and the health, safety, and welfare of the foster children.

Thus, they struck it down.

The first thing that strikes me about these two cases is that, if you like to use silly labels, the Arkansas Court is the liberal one, while the New York Court is the conservative one. Take that, you snooty yankees.

Second, the Arkansas decision is the better decision not because it is the liberal decision, but because the Arkansas decision rests on reason and facts, not “intution and experience.”

Third, I am extremely sick and tired of people, like those cited in the opinion, who equate their beliefs with universal rights and wrongs. Maybe it is wrong to be gay. But how about some concrete evidence of widespread harm before we start basing public policy decisions on that belief.

Fourth, and related to three, that your religion, like mine, says being gay is wrong does not mean society ought to codify your religious belief. I don’t want to live according to Muhammed’s precepts, so I’m not going to make anyone else live according to my views about Jesus’s teachings. Religious motivations are fine, but the proposed law needs to have secular justifications. That is, justifications that people of any religion could accept.  

I have yet to see any evidence of concrete harm that would result from extending marital benefits to gay couples, nor have I seen secular justification for denying them marital benefits. So, although you’ll never see me out protesting in favor of extending marital benefits to gay couples, I just can not agree with the anti-gay marriage crowd.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Goobers, National Politics, Religion

4 Comments on “Woo Pig Sooie!”

  1. Kathy Says:

    You don’t have to be out protesting as long as you’re willing to speak out — and vote — against discrimination. Here’s a link to a recent study showing that children are not damaged by having gay parents.

  2. Dan Says:

    Kathy, I’m quickly becoming less and less satisfied with just being a rational person who speaks up when my co-workers go on the gay-bashing. If you know of a rally or protest anywhere in Alabama, let me know.

  3. Kathy Says:

    I’ll do that.


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