Thirteen retired Arkansas judges, including three former chief justices of the state Supreme Court, announced their opposition Monday to a ballot initiative that would ban unmarried couples from adopting or foster parenting children in Arkansas.

Proposed Initiated Act No. 1 would limit the ability of every Arkansas judge to choose custodial parents who would serve the best interests of vulnerable children, the group said in a statement.

“Instead of imposing a blanket rule that would apply to every case, the needs of these children, and the best means of satisfying their needs, should be left to elected judges to decide case-by-case,” the statement said.

The leader of the conservative Christian group spearheading the initiative said the judges’ statement was part of an effort to further a gay agenda in Arkansas.

The ballot initiative is primarily aimed at gays and lesbians but would also affect heterosexual couples. It would make law a state policy that now bars unmarried couples living together from serving as foster parents, and would extend the ban to include adoptions, for which there is currently no such restriction.

The proposal is in response to a 2006 state Supreme Court decision that struck down a state policy banning gays and lesbians from serving as foster parents.

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