Gay Family Advocates Worry That After Arkansas, Louisiana May Ban Adoptions

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 30, 2008

New appointments to a seven-year-old Louisiana commission have alarmed GLBT equality advocates in that state, who worry that an Arkansas-like ban on same-sex adoptive parents could result.

The commission, called the Commission on Marriage and Family, has seen its 29 spots filled by Louisiana Governor Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, a Republican, with a who's who of social and religious conservatives, including the anti-gay Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, himself previously a Louisiana legislator, reported The Times-Picayune in a Dec. 30 article.

The article added that several conservative Christian ministers and the author of the state's so-called "covenant marriage" measure, which makes divorce more difficult, have also been named to the commission.

According to the Times-Picayune article, Louisiana GLBT equality organization The Forum for Equality had sent Gov. Jindal a letter to urge him to include members with a professional backgrounds in marriage and family, but had not heard anything back.

That silence from the governor's office, said Forum for Equality political director Randy Evans, was in keeping with earlier attempts by the group to contact and interact with Jindal since the governor's days in the U.S. House of Representatives.

At issue is the commission's emphasis on religious, rather than scientific or secular, expertise.

The article cited Evans as expressing concern that the religiously-dominated commission might attempt to tighten the state's already restrictive policies regarding adoption by gays and lesbians.

A voter-approved ballot initiative in Arkansas last month curtailed the right of unmarried individuals who live together to adopt children, which automatically includes gay and lesbian families, who are not allowed to marry under Arkansas law.

The Forum for Equality fears that the commission might advise the governor and the state legislature to pursue similar restrictions in Louisiana.

Chairwoman (and sponsor of the commission's inception, back in 2001) Sharon Weston Broome, a Democratic state Senator, sought to provide assurances that the commission's primary purpose is to find ways to extend aid to families.

Sen. Broome also characterized the commission's makeup as being "diverse," rather than monolithic.

Other assurances came from commission appointee and director of the Louisiana Family Forum Gene Mills, who cited several other areas on which the commission might focus, including programs that would allow prison inmates more time to spend with their children, pursuing avenues to make divorces harder to obtain, and helping single-parent families with job training initiatives.

As for anything to do with gays being allowed to adopt, Mills said, "That's really up to the Legislature."

One commission member who is also a clergyman, the First United Methodist Church's Rev. Chris Andrews, indicated that for his part, at least, families of all descriptions would be targeted for service, rather than discrimination.

Said Rev. Andrews, "In general, I would view adoption issues through the lens of whether an individual or couple has the ability to love and care for a child,."

Saying that he would oppose any measure that would make it harder for a child to find a loving, stable home, Andrews added, "I do not think that is something that is limited to a particular sexual orientation."

Gov. Jindal himself provided a brief statement, which echoed anti-gay rhetoric from other social debates without offering an answer one way or the other.

Read Jindal's statement, "I believe family is the cornerstone of our society and look forward to the commission's work on how we can do more to support healthy families."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.