Judge Says Conservative Group Can Defend Arkansas’ Foster Care Law
March 6, 2009 - 3:43 PMA conservative group behind a successful ballot measure banning unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children can help defend the ban in a lawsuit, a judge ruled Friday.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said he believes allowing the Arkansas Family Council's request to help the state defend the law would allow the case to be "fully developed."
"I'm a firm believer that you can't be afraid of what someone is going to say," Piazza said.
Byron Babione, an attorney for the family council, said it had a unique interest in the case because it pushed to get the measure on the November ballot and mobilized volunteers during its successful fall campaign.
He noted that Gov. Mike Beebe and state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, both Democrats, opposed the measure, and that McDaniel's political action committee gave $1,000 to a group that campaigned against the restriction.
"Nobody really likes to have their interests represented by somebody who doesn't believe in their cause," said Babione, who is senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal organization.
Piazza said his decision was not a reflection of how he felt about McDaniel's ability to handle the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on behalf of more than a dozen families seeking to overturn the law. The families argue that it violates their rights and that the way it was presented to voters on the ballot was misleading.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Stacey Friedman, argued that the conservative group should not be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit because its defense of the law could have been heard by filing a friend-of-the-court brief.
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