The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said that gays can qualify as foster parents and barring them from parenting foster children was based on one group's views on morality.

In upholding a lower court decision that a state ban was unconstitutional, the high court said that no connection exists between a foster child's well-being and the sexual orientation of that child's foster parents.

"There is no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual," Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the opinion.

In addition, the court said the testimony of a board member demonstrated that "the driving force between adoption of the regulations was not to promote the health, safety and welfare of foster children but rather based upon the board's views of morality and its bias against homosexuals."

The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services had appealed a 2004 decision by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox, who said the Child Welfare Agency Review Board could not bar homosexuals from becoming foster parents.

The child welfare board instituted the ban in March 1999, saying children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they are more likely to thrive in that environment.

Four Arkansans sued, saying homosexuals who otherwise qualified as foster parents had been discriminated against. They contended the ban violated their right to privacy and equal protection under the state and U.S. constitutions.

The Arkansas Supreme Court also said that being raised by homosexuals doesn't cause academic problems or gender identity problems, as the state had argued.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union represented the plaintiffs in the case. Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas, said she was pleased Thursday's decision.

Associated Justice Tom Glaze recused.