Greg and Stillman Stewart do it for the kids.
The two men have been together for more than 30 years, and are parents to five children adopted through California’s foster care system.
The family moved to Lincoln in 2011, when Greg took a position at First-Plymouth Congregational Church. Naturally, the couple wanted to continue fostering kids.
When they applied for a license, they were turned down because of a policy that bars gay people from being foster parents. Established in 1995, the policy prohibits the Nebraska Department of Social Services – now a part of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – from placing children with “persons who identify themselves as homosexuals,” or persons who are “unrelated, unmarried adults residing together.”
The American Civil Liberties Union wants to change that.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, three Lincoln couples are challenging the policy.
Joining the Stewarts, Lisa Blakely and Janet Rodriguez want to foster middle and high school-aged children because they are often difficult to place. Todd Vesley and Joel Busch want to foster older children as well; they purchased a Lincoln home with extra bedrooms so they can foster siblings who happened to be in the system together. Vesley is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps and had intended on being a full-time stay-at-home dad.
The lawsuit argues the rule excludes willing foster care parents, which leaves roughly 3,800 children without a stable home.
The ACLU has successfully litigated against similar bans on adoption and foster parenting in Arkansas, Florida and Missouri. Nebraska joins Utah and Mississippi in states with similar bans.
This lawsuit comes as Nebraska has started to address some of its anti-gay laws. Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford said he’d like to have the Legislature’s judiciary committee look at the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Also, senators are expected to debate Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist’s LB385 next session, which would allow foster children to be placed with gay or lesbian relatives or people with established relationships.