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Opponents of state gay foster ban plan court case

This article was published August 19, 2008 at 6:18 p.m.

Opponents of a proposal that would ban unmarried couples living together from adopting or fostering children said Tuesday they plan to challenge the measure in court if it's approved for the fall general election ballot.

Debbie Willhite, lead consultant for Arkansas Families First, said the campaign against the proposed initiated act is already preparing to petition the Arkansas Supreme Court if the secretary of state's office says backers of the proposal have submitted enough signatures.

"We do intend to enjoin the initiative," Willhite said. "We're quite optimistic that we'll keep this from being voted on."

Arkansas Families First has more than $45,000 in the bank to finance efforts to fight the measure and raised $13,345 last month, according to a campaign-finance report filed Tuesday. Its expenses included $1,755 paid to the secretary of state's office for copies of the petitions submitted by the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, which proposed the ban.

Last month, the committee submitted signatures to get the measure on the November ballot, but fell short of the necessary 61,794 necessary signatures. The committee got another 30 days to gather more signatures.

Willhite said her group has been going through the signatures and petitions submitted to find more names that she believes should have been tossed out by the secretary of state's office.

"Those are the types of things we're looking at," Willhite said. "We're also going to challenge it on the sufficiency of the title and the constitutionality of this proposed initiated act."

The group is in a better position financially than the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, sponsor of the proposal, which raised $9,000 last month.

The committee reported a debt of nearly $2,800 as of July 31. The group's expenses total more than $57,000.

Committee president Jerry Cox says the group plans to turn in 24,000 signatures of registered voters on Thursday.

Cox said he believed the proposal, aimed at banning gays and lesbians from fostering or adopting children, would withstand a court challenge and said backers gathered the signatures properly.

"While this will be a distraction and a diversion for us, I believe we will prevail in court," Cox said.

For more information see Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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