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TX Judge Refuses to Block Adoption and Foster Care

A social worker has been blocked in her "emergency" attempt to prevent the state of Texas from placing children in gay or lesbian foster or adoptive homes, the American Civil Liberties Union said June 22.

The judge's action came in a suit brought by Rebecca Bledsoe, a former supervisor at the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, the state agency which oversees foster care placement and adoptions.

At a hearing here yesterday, Judge Bill Rhea refused to issue an emergency order blocking Texas from placing children in foster or adoptive homes with lesbian and gay parents. The court instead ordered both sides to submit written arguments about the legality of the state's policies.

"The judge was absolutely right to refuse to allow his courtroom to be used for what is essentially political grandstanding," said Ed Tuddenham, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU.

In 1998, Bledsoe ordered that a child be removed from a foster home when she learned that the parents, who had been approved by the agency, were lesbians. As a result, the department demoted her from her supervisory position. Bledsoe filed suit against the agency, asking the court to declare that adoptions and foster care placements in lesbian and gay homes are illegal because of the state's sodomy statute, and asking to be reinstated as a supervisor.

The ACLU's National Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, working with the ACLU of Texas, intervened in the case in October 1998, on behalf of a foster mother who is a lesbian and who is threatened with losing her child.

"There is nothing illegal about placing kids with the families that can provide the best care and nurturing, no matter what their sexual orientation,"said Jennifer Middleton, an attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

"The Texas legislature hasn't barred anybody from being eligible to adopt and neither should the agency," she added. "There are too many needy kids in Texas waiting for good homes to let bigotry dictate their fate."

In anticipation of presenting her case to the court, Bledsoe had subpoenaed several caseworkers from Child Protective Services and the couple from whom she removed the child, hoping to have them testify at the hearing. But the judge refused to hear any testimony, and instead ordered that Bledsoe explain why the state's policy is unauthorized.

The ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project has challenged restrictive adoption and foster care policies in several states, arguing that children are best served when every potential adoptive home is considered on its ability to provide a nurturing a caring environment, not on the sexual orientation of the potential parents. The ACLU is currently litigating against anti-gay policies in Florida and Arkansas, the only states which still have such restrictions.


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