Wednesday, December 31, 2008

ACLU v. "Regnat Populus"

The Arkansas State Memo is “Regnat Populus,” meaning “The People Rule.” Evidentially this is a belief that the Arkansas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union does not share. Yesterday, Rita Sklar, director of the ACLU, announced that they will be filing a lawsuit against the State of Arkansas on behalf of twenty-nine adults and children that they say will be affected by the recently passed Initiated Act 1. Act 1, which will take effect tomorrow, prohibits individuals who are cohabitating outside of a valid marriage from become adoptive or foster parents. The Act was passed in the November election by 57% of the voters.

The lawsuit claims that Act 1 violates federal and state constitutional rights to equal treatment and due process under the law, specifically for the 29 adults and children named in the case. The ACLU has spent the last few weeks looking for “families affected by new statewide parenting ban” imploring them to contact their office so that they could help defend their rights. In a December 8 press release, Rita Sklar said, “We’ve already heard from many people who are frightened and worried about how Act 1 might hurt their families, and we want to hear from more.”

The lawsuit names the state of Arkansas, the related state agencies and their directors as defendants in the case, meaning the lawyer defending Act 1 in court will be Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. McDaniel was an outspoken opponent of Initiated Act 1, as seen in this picture from the Arkansas Times with Arkansas Families First Director Debbie Wilhite at a fundraiser for the group opposing Act 1. In spite of this, McDaniel’s office says that they feel they will be successful in fighting the ACLU’s challenge.

The case is set to go before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox. This is not the first time Judge Fox has ruled on such a case. In 2005, Judge Fox struck down the Arkansas state policy banning the placement of foster children with gay adults, saying that the state had no authority under the Arkansas Constitution to rule on “public morality.” It looks like the ACLU will be blessed with a judge who has previously ruled in their favor and opposing counsel who agrees with their claim.

In spite of this, Jerry Cox with Family Council of Arkansas, the group that sponsored Act 1, told the Arkansas News Bureau that he is “confident this lawsuit will fail and Act 1 will remain on the books.” He added, “That’s why we took extreme care in crafting the language in such a way that it could stand up against any legal challenge.” Cox went on to say that he plans seek the courts permission to intervene in the case. Good idea!

1 comment:

Schandy said...

Hey, Jason, Chris Schandevel here.
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