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A judge struck down a state ban on placing foster children in any household with a gay member, ruling that the state agency enforcing the rule had overstepped its authority by trying to regulate "public morality."

The state promised Thursday to appeal the ruling, which came Wednesday from Judge Timothy Fox in a case brought by the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

At issue was a 1999 regulation of the Child Welfare Agency Review Board that said gays cannot become foster parents and foster children cannot be placed in any home with a gay member under its roof.

The ACLU had argued the regulation violates the equal-protection rights of gays, but the judge's ruling did not turn on that argument.

Instead, Fox noted that the Arkansas Legislature gave the board the power to "promote the health, safety and welfare of children," but said the ban does not accomplish that. Rather, he said, the regulation seeks to regulate "public morality" -- something the board was not given the authority to do.

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