Father Tony

Learning How to Talk about Gay Adoption in Florida

Filed By Father Tony | March 29, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: ACLU, adoption ban, Florida, gay adoption, GLAAD, Justin Flippen

On Saturday March 20th, at the Hagen Park Community Center in Wilton Manors, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida's LGBT Advocacy Project (ACLUFL) presented the four-hour workshop Adoption Training.

Pictured is Justin Flippen, gay Vice Mayor of Wilton Manors.

justin flippen.JPGThe objective of the workshop was to create a core of people able to go out into their communities and speak fluently and convincingly about the need to end Florida's ban on adoption by LGBT people.

The presentation included an update about the campaign to end the 33 year-old ban. The state of Florida is appealing a Miami-Dade County judge's November 2008 ruling that the state's ban on adoption by LGBT parents is unconstitutional. Florida's adoption ban is the only law in the country that completely excludes LGBT people from adopting.

(This report appears today in the South Florida Gay News.)

GLAAD Media Field Strategist Daryl Hannah led the workshop offering examples of effective language and messages to change the hearts and minds of that persuadable group labeled "The Moveable Middle". He instructed the 25 attendees about how to tell their personal stories in their communities in a winning way. Mr. Hannah provided strategies for staying on message, preparing and giving successful media interviews and writing effective Letters to the Editor and Op-eds. He provided the attendees with a central message that should guide all their words.

"This is about what's in the best interest of children. Opposing adoption by qualified parents hurts children and denies children permanent, stable and forever homes."

Justin L. Flippen, Vice-Mayor of Wilton Manors and candidate for State Representative for District 92, opened the workshop. Before the session, he spoke privately with me.

"We need to assemble strong allies and advocates for equality. Recently, the "Do you own a gun?" question was eliminated from the Florida adoption application process, but the question "Are you homosexual?" is still there and that needs to be removed. This issue is personal for me. My mother was adopted. I am an openly gay man, and I can't adopt."

The attendees received an impromptu presentation from Martin Gill. He and his partner of eight years have been raising two foster children of the state since December 11, 2004. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) now says that it must take the boys from the only true home they have ever known to be placed with straight strangers. Mr. Gill spoke about a question raised in court by his lawyers.

"Our lawyers asked if the court would, in the event that the ban is not overturned, allow our kids to remain with us, just as in California when gay marriage was overturned, those gay couples who got married could stay legally married. DCF said no, and that they would immediately call for the removal of the boys from our house and place them in suitable homes. Had it just been a gay issue, I wouldn't be here today. It's my two kids who inspire me."

Mr. Hannah added that many individuals at DCF are actually advocates for adoption by LGBT people.

"DCF admits that gay people and straight people make equally good parents. DCF admits that if a child is in foster care with gay foster parents and already adjusted to the placement and the family is meeting the child's needs, it would be detrimental to the child to move him. DCF admits that the shortage of qualified adoptive parents is a serious problem, and based on the most recent data available from DCF, there are approximately 35,000 children in Florida's foster care system waiting to be adopted. Florida's blanket adoption ban costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year."

The workshop concluded with role-playing to test the participants' understanding of the importance of words and images in one-to-one conversations, media interviews and public speaking.

For more information, contact Daryl Hannah, [email protected], (646) 871-8012 or Brandon Hensler, [email protected], (786) 363-2722.

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This sounds a great deal like OUTSpoken, a training program from the Family Equality Council. I still use their manual on how to address the public using noninflammatory terms and redirecting the focus to where it rightly belongs: on the family.