Advocates work to fight anti-gay legislation

California is seeing a slew of gay couples rushing to get marriage licenses this month, a movement that is only expected to accelerate over the next three weeks. Some observers see it as a response to the possibility that the rights of same-gender couples to marry in California, approved by a state Supreme Court ruling in May, could be reversed on Nov. 4, when voters weigh in on Proposition 8, a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to limit marriage to being between a man and a woman, blocking any judicial ruling that it's unconstitutional.

Couples are descending from all over the country to get married, including the South. "We timed it now to be before the Nov. 4 election - just in case," recently married Ken McLeod told the San Diego Union Tribune last week. McLeod and his partner flew from their home in Winston-Salem, N.C., to get married in San Diego. The couple is legally married but their union won't be recognized in North Carolina.

While, LGBTQ rights activists tackle the marriage battle in California, some advocates have their eyes on smaller state initiatives as well, especially here in the South.

Early voters in Arkansas began going to the polls this Monday, and while the larger presidential race has been on many peoples' minds, an amendment to prevent unmarried couples from adopting foster children is also making waves in the state.

Initiated Act 1 is a proposed amendment to bar unmarried or cohabiting couples from adopting or fostering children, placed on the ballot by the Arkansas Family Council, a conservative group has made no secret of the fact that the proposed amendment is aimed at gays and lesbians.

The Associated Press reports that the group is seeking to duplicate the success it saw four years ago with a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. With the measure, the Family Council is also seeking to add Arkansas to a small group of states with laws aimed at barring gays from adopting children in state custody, states including Mississippi, Florida and Utah.

Opponents of the proposed amendment argue that it unfairly limits the qualified pool of parents available for Arkansas foster children. For example, the ACLU points out that under the proposed law, a mother who wants her child to be raised by a family member or close family friend in the event of her death, wouldn't be allowed to choose this trusted person if he or she lives with another adult. Opponents of the law also point out that the policy would only add to the huge foster care crisis already present in Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Morning News:

State Department of Human Services figures show that 231 new foster homes were recruited in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007 - and 291 stopped taking in foster children the same year. In the six months after that, another 1,923 foster children entered the system. There were 3,708 children in foster care as of Oct. 7 of this year. There were 1,190 foster homes available as of the same date.

For the past three years, the state of Arkansas had a policy in place barring unmarried couples living together from serving as foster parents. When the state announced plans to drop its policy this month, citing the need for more foster families, the right-wing attack became fierce. The Family Council accused officials of supporting a gay agenda and urged voters to "stop gay activists and gay-friendly bureaucrats from using foster children to advance the gay agenda."

Child advocates and gay rights advocates who stand against the proposed law will be watching the polls closely in Arkansas to see what the final decision will be.