The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Nebraska and local lawyers acting on behalf of three same-sex couples filed suit Tuesday against Gov. Dave Heineman (R) demanding that the state drop its discriminatory policy against allowing same sex families to serve as foster parents. According to Talking Points Memo, the suit charges that the ban on same sex foster families violates those families’ right to equal protection under the United States Constitution.
In 1995, Nebraska passed legislation that prohibited the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services from placing foster children with any “persons who identify themselves as homosexuals” or persons who are “unrelated, unmarried adults residing together.” The ban also extended to same sex couples seeking to adopt children from the state’s foster care system in that in order to adopt a foster child, a family must first qualify to serve as a foster family.
The suit was brought by Greg and Stillman Stewart, Lisa Blakey and Janet Rodriguez and Todd Vesely and Joel Busch, all of Lincoln, NE. The Stewarts are veterans of California’s foster care system, having raised and adopted several children, now ages 13 to 20. Blakey is a former foster child who wants to give back to the system that cared for her when her own family was unable to.
“We know first-hand the pain children experience when they are put through the trauma of multiple failed placements,” said Greg Stewart in an ACLU statement. “When we moved to Nebraska, we felt we could welcome other children in need of families now that our kids are grown. But when we called HHS to apply to become foster parents, we were told that despite our experience raising five wonderful children, we were not eligible.”
Amy Miller of the ACLU of Nebraska said in the same release, “There are over 3,800 children in the foster care system in Nebraska, too many of whom have been through multiple failed placements, long stays in emergency shelters, and long waits to be adopted because we don’t have enough families who are willing and able to care for them. This law cruelly takes stable, loving families away from the vulnerable children who desperately need them.”
The Lincoln Journal-Star reported that state lawmakers are set to debate a bill in the next legislative session that would strike down the state’s ban on LGBT foster families and adoptions.
Nebraska state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist sponsored the bill, which would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation when determining the suitability of a foster care placement or in issuing a foster care license.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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