The archaic and discriminatory ban on gays and lesbians adopting in Florida is headed to a state appeals court.
Attorney General Bill McCollum is leading the state's appeal of the November 2008 decision from Miami-Dade County Judge Cindy Lederman that the law is unconstitutional. The Third District Court of Appeals will hear arguments today from attorneys for Martin Gill, who is seeking to adopt two young boys with his partner, and the Florida Department of Children & Families, which has been fighting Gill's efforts to adopt the boys he has raised in foster care since 2004.
State attorneys say the judge essentially "legislated from the bench" and that state lawmakers should decide the matter. The ACLU, which is representing Gill and the two boys, say the judge "made the appropriate findings of fact, based on the undisputed evidence that there is no inherent basis to disqualify homosexuals from adopting in this state, since there is no proof that homosexuals can't be excellent parents."
Florida is the only state in the US with a complete statutory ban on gay people adopting. The 31 year old law does not stop gay people from fostering children. In fact, gays and lesbians foster children in large numbers in Florida, many times taking in children with special needs or medical issues.
Florida's gay adoption ban has been upheld repeatedly by state and federal appeals courts.
In her ruling, Judge Lederman rejected the state's claim that the law promotes "public morality and the best interests of foster children who may be harmed by same-sex parents." The arguments, and the law itself, stem directly from Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusade in the late 1970s. Lederman concluded that studies overwhelmingly have shown that gay people can parent as effectively as straight people and do no harm to their children.
Although the Florida Department of Children & Families is fighting the decision, they did agree that it was in the best interest of the children that their foster parent adopts them. Judi Spann, DCF's deputy chief of staff, said the agency's guiding light is "the best interests'' of the children and that she is "hopeful that state appeals courts will resolve the issue over gay adoption with some finality so DCF does not have to constantly relitigate every time a gay man or lesbian seeks to adopt."
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, puts it best:
For far too long, the welfare of children trapped in Florida's scandal-ridden foster-care system has been held hostage to ugly anti-gay bigotry.
We'll be sure to keep everyone updated as the case moves forward...