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The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling allowing same-sex couples to foster children, abandoning a 20-year-old policy which prohibited gays and lesbians from doing so.
The Court analogized the ban to hanging a sign seeking job applicants on an office door but indicating, “Whites Only.”
“This is a victory for children and LGBT Nebraskans. There are tens of thousands of LGBT people who call the Cornhusker State home and thousands of Nebraska children in need of a foster care placement,” said Executive Director Danielle Conrad of the ACLU Nebraska in a statement.
The Nebraska ban originated from a 1995 policy instituted by a former director of the Department of Health and Human Services and aimed at the LGBT community, with the director’s memo reading:
“It is my decision that effective immediately, it is the policy of the Department of Social Service that children will not be placed in the homes of persons who identify themselves as homosexuals. This policy also applies to the area of foster home licensure in that, effective immediately, no foster home license shall be issued to persons who identify themselves as homosexual.”
The Supreme Court’s decision upheld the 2013 ruling on a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Nebraska, the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, three LGBT couples, and the legal firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.
“The couples had intentions of serving as foster parents but were turned down by state employees,” Nicole Chavez of CNN reported. “One couple claimed the staff of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services discouraged them when they asked for information. Another couple said they were told same-sex couples could not be licensed even after they’ve gone through training and background checks.”
A man in a same-sex relationship told his story to Social Life Blog about his experience in wanting to foster a child. He and his partner believed the expectations of gay couples were far higher than those of heterosexual couples. Despite those obstacles, they followed their dream.
“We wanted to help someone who might not have had the best start in life and make a difference so they could be who they wanted to be when they grew up,” he wrote. “This is what makes a foster carer. It means never giving up and always standing by the child.”
Now LGBT Nebraskans have this same opportunity.