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Nebraska ends discrimination against gay foster parents

Since 1995, lesbian and gay couples have been banned from being foster parents in Nebraska by nothing more than a simple memo.

Now, in a landmark ruling seen as a huge step forward toward ending discrimination within the state against same-sex couples, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision to strike down the infamous Memo 1-95. That was the memo issued by the director of the state's Department of Social Services that put an immediate ban on placing children in homes with homosexuals or allowing homosexuals to receive a foster home license.

A judge in a lower court ruled that the practice was unconstitutional and discriminatory in 2015, but representatives from the state filed an appeal, saying that it wanted to place foster children in settings that were the most "family-like."

The judges on Nebraska's Supreme Court, however, had some harsh words for the ban, saying that it was no different than hanging up a sign that said "Whites Only" outside the door where applications were taken for jobs. They pointedly stated that the mere existence of such a rule made it impossible for same-sex couples to be seen as equal to opposite-sex couples and the state's position made it all the more obvious that the rule was discriminatory when it implied that same-sex couples couldn't provide a "family-like" atmosphere for foster children.

This ruling does more than just enable same-sex couples to foster children in Nebraska -- it also paves the way for adoptions that wouldn't otherwise be possible.

In order for a couple to adopt a child out of foster care in Nebraska, that couple has to first be licensed as foster parents. Since same-sex couples couldn't be licensed foster parents, any seeking to adopt would have to go through private adoptions. That seems an unnecessary cruelty toward the children currently in Nebraska's foster care system hoping to be adopted.

For more information on how the new ruling could affect your ability to be a foster parent and ultimately adopt a child out of foster care, an experienced attorney is a place to start.

Source: Slate, "Nebraska Supreme Court: Ban on Gay Foster Parents Indistinguishable From a "Whites Only" Sign," Mark Joseph Stern, April 07, 2017

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