- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Donald Corbin, a former Arkansas legislator and state Supreme Court justice who wrote rulings striking down a ban on gay foster parents and a law requiring voters to show photo identification, has died. He was 78.

Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs said Corbin died Monday night after battling lung cancer. Corbin was first elected to the state Supreme Court in 1990 and served three eight-year terms before retiring at the end of 2014. He had previously served in the state House as a Democrat and on the state appeals court.

Corbin participated in some of the high court’s most high-profile cases during his tenure, and colleagues remembered him as someone who didn’t worry about the political fallout from the stances he and other justices took.

“He had a value system that he believed in very, very strongly, and the controversial cases did not bother him. He was not worried about public criticism or what anyone else thought,” said Justice Paul Danielson, who served with Corbin on the court. “If he thought was something was right, he was going to do it. That’s the way he was.”

Corbin wrote the court’s 2006 opinion striking down a state regulation banning gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents. In the ruling, he called the ban “an attempt to legislate for the General Assembly with respect to public morality.” Voters in 2008 approved an initiative reinstating the ban and expanding it to prohibit adoptions by same-sex couples, but that measure was also eventually tossed by the court.

Corbin also wrote the court’s majority opinion in 2014 declaring Arkansas’ voter photo ID requirement unconstitutional. Corbin last year said he knew there would be pushback from the majority-Republican Legislature, which had enacted the requirement in 2013.

“I think we were all aware that it was a political hot potato, but I took the job knowing that I had to decide cases based on facts and law and not political repercussions,” he said in an interview for an oral history of the court.

Corbin last year said the court had voted in 2014 to strike down Arkansas’ gay marriage ban, months before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized it nationwide, and he had urged his colleagues to issue the decision before his term ended. The court eventually dismissed a lawsuit over the state ban as moot hours after the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year.

“It was a tough political issue, but legally it was a cakewalk,” Corbin said. “Anybody who knows anything about the law or had any training whatsoever as a constitutional lawyer would know that.”

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday said Corbin’s “booming presence will be missed in the halls of justice.” Former Justice Robert L. Brown praised Corbin as someone who could cut the tension during oral arguments with his remarks during questioning.

“I think he had more personality than everybody on the court put together,” Brown said.

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Associated Press Writer Jill Bleed contributed to this report

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ademillo


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