A Pulaski County judge, Mackie Pierce, ruled last year that John Moix’s partner who lives with him could not stay in the house overnight when his son was staying with him. That ruling has been overturned by the State Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling.
The county court had cited a practice by judges in the state of not allowing unmarried couples to cohabit in the presence of a child but the Supreme Court said, “the public policy against romantic cohabitation is not a ‘blanket ban,’ as it may not override the primary consideration for the circuit court in such cases, which is determining what is in the best interest of the children involved.” In other words the court held that before the court could rule against Moix and his partner, the plaintiff, his ex wife had to prove that it was in the best interest of the child to prohibit the partner’s presence.
Moix had sought a change to a previous visitation order which had prohibited him from having his son for overnight visits due to an addiction to pain killers. He has been sober for 2 1/2 years and has been living with his partner since 2007 so when the addiction was no longer a valid reason to prevent overnight visits his ex-wife, who he was divorced from in 2004 raised the issue of the live-in partner as a reason to continue the overnight visitation prohibition.
The ex-wife’s attorney, Richard Worsham, had argued that there were other reasons to continue the prohibition claiming that the relationship between Moix and his partner was “volatile” and citing his addiction even though he has had that under control for over 2 years.
He also argued that the boy’s mother has the right to have a say in deciding where and with whom her son can spend time saying, “She has some rights relative to the environment her child is exposed to.”
It should also be noted that although the boy’s mother, Libby Stell, denies that Moix’s homosexuality has anything to do with her objections, she has remarried to a fundamentalist pastor and although they deny it they have been accused of telling Moix that he will “burn in a lake of fire” because of his sexual orientation.
Moix’s attorney, Jack Wagoner is well known for his advocacy of LGBT rights, he has offered his services free to any same sex couple who wishes to marry since Arkansas prohibits same sex marriage. He has said that he does this work because he “missed the 60s and the black people are already pretty well taken care of.” Also because, ” It defies common sense to think that being gay is a “choice.” People are just gay or they’re not. So we should not discriminate against them.”
Perhaps his best reason for his work for the LGBT community is, “I hate the religious right, and anything that gets under their skin is great sport to me.”
Wagoner had argued that the lower court’s ruling conflicted with a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court in 2008 which struck down a law banning unmarried couples from fostering or adopting children, that ban was primarily aimed at same sex couples who are prohibited from marrying in the state.
Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson wrote a dissenting opinion saying, “The court quite plainly stated that ‘the best interest dictates that that be the continued policy of the Court’ to not permit overnight visitation in the presence of the child. I would affirm the circuit court’s decision in keeping with our time-tested law.”
Mr. Moix has still not won a clear cut victory in the case as it has been returned to the lower court for reconsideration but with the instruction to not consider the fact that the couple is unmarried nor that this is a same sex relationship. The judge must make his ruling based solely on the best interests of the child.
h/t: Opposing Views