Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
A bill, which passed the state Senate last week, forbids cohabiting unmarried couples and gays from serving as adoptive or foster parents, unless they're related to the children in question. In other words, Jolie and her boyfriend (Brad Pitt, you may have heard of him) couldn't jointly adopt under the legislation.
More interestingly, note that the bill doesn't just affect unmarried couples, including gay couples, but rather unmarried couples and gays. Any gay individual couldn't adopt or serve as a foster parent under this policy.
As a result, this legislation has served as the latest flashpoint in the gay parenting debate. But it raises a practical concern: How can government determine someone's sexual orientation? (With exceptional bureaucratic gaydar, no doubt.)
Jolie actually serves as a good example of how this question can get complicated. She's been married twice and is in a longstanding relationship with Pitt. However, she also has acknowledged having a sexual relationship with a woman and described herself as bisexual. Would she count as gay under the bill? It's tough to say because "homosexual" isn't defined in the legislation.
A related question came up on the Senate floor, which led to this exchange between Senator Jim Argue and the bill's sponsor, Shawn Womack, as reported by the Arkansas News Bureau:
"Sen. Womack, are you a heterosexual?" Argue asked at one point.
"Proudly," Womack replied.
Argue pressed, "How would you prove your sexual orientation?"
"I'm not sure I can make that argument in mixed company," Womack answered.
He added that the burden of proof under his bill would be on the state to show that a prospective adoptive or foster parent was gay, or that two cohabiting adults had an intimate relationship.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.