Arkansas' Supreme Court on April 7 struck down a voter-passed law that banned unmarried individuals who have a sexual relationship with a live-in partner from adopting or fostering children.
Upholding a lower-court ruling, the Supreme Court said the ban violates the state constitution's guarantee of a right to privacy.
"We hold that a fundamental right to privacy is at issue in this case and that, under the Arkansas Constitution, sexual cohabitors have the right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial intimacy in the privacy of their homes," the court said. "Act 1 directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights of 'opposite-sex and same-sex individuals' who engage in private, consensual conduct in the bedroom by foreclosing their eligibility to foster or adopt children, should they choose to cohabit with their sexual partner."
In arriving at its decision, the court applied "heightened scrutiny," a standard that increases the likelihood of a law's being found unconstitutional.
"This ruling is a relief for the over 1,600 children in the state of Arkansas who need a permanent family," said Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which had filed suit on behalf of children, parents and couples affected by the law.
The Arkansas decision leaves Mississippi and Utah as the only states that ban unmarried couples from adopting.