Appeals court affirms overturning adoption law

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A state appeals court upheld a ruling that there is no rationale basis for Florida’s decades-old law banning gays and lesbians from adopting children.

The Florida Supreme Court likely will be the next venue for the suit seeking to overturn the legislation, but already Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has said the state will no longer enforce the law.

Adoption is an issue decided state by state, often on a case-by-case basis. While several states have anti-gay adoption laws, Florida is the only state to explicitly ban gays and lesbians from adopting children.

Florida owes its law to an early emergence of contemporary Christian right power, that of Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant and the Save Our Children crusade in 1977.

Bryant led a campaign to repeal an anti-discrimination ordinance that fueled legislative interest in the anti-gay adoption law, which specifically states, “No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.”

A lawsuit seeking to overturn the 1977 statute is making its way through Florida’s state court system – from the circuit court to the appeals court and next, most likely, the supreme court.

In the suit, being handled by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Frank Martin Gill wants the right to adopt the two foster care boys he and his partner have raised since 2004, along with a third son.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman ruled in Gill’s favor Nov. 25, 2008, finding that “sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent. A child in need of love, safety and stability does not first consider the sexual orientation of his parent.”

Removed from the custody of their biological parents and an environment perilous to their physical, emotional and educational well-being, the boys in Gill’s care “now flourish,” the trial judge wrote.

Lederman observed that the fact that parental sexual orientation has no impact on children’s well-being has “been accepted, adopted and ratified by” the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America and the National Association of Social Workers.

The judge went on to point out the dubious testimony from the state’s experts who offered pseudo-science and religious opinion.

On Sept. 22, the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld Lederman’s ruling. The court’s 28-page opinion questioned why gays can serve as foster parents and legal guardians but are the only group of people in Florida who cannot adopt children.

“It is difficult to see any rational basis in utilizing homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on those same persons,” Judge Gerald Cope wrote for the court. “All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents.”

Crist, who is running as an Independent for the U.S. Senate in November, said, “I’m very pleased with the ruling on behalf of the Gills.… It’s a great day for children. Children deserve a loving home.”

Given the makeup of the supreme court, the family “has a very good chance to get a very good ruling,” Crist added.

While the governor issued a stay on enforcement of the ban, the Florida Department of Children and Families could go to the supreme court. A deadline for an appeal would be in late October.

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