Florida Court Rules Ban on Gay Adoption Unconstitutional

A circuit court judge in Miami has ruled that Florida’s ban on adoptions by gay couples is unconstitutional. Florida has had the ban in place for 30 years, and until Arkansas passed a similar ban on adoptions by gay couples, was the only state to expressly prohibit such adoptions. 

Judge Cindy Lederman ruled that Frank Gill and his partner could adopt the two boys, brothers who had been under Gill’s foster care since 2004. Gill has cared for other foster children over the years, and all have eventually returned to their families. This time, due to abusive circumstances surrounding the boys’ placement in foster care, they could not be returned to their birth parents. 

“This is the forum where we try to heal children,” said Lederman, quoted in the Miami Herald, “find permanent families for them so they can get another chance at what every child should know and feel from birth, and go on to lead productive lives.” She added, “These children are thriving; it is uncontroverted.”

Attorneys for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said they would immediately appeal the ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami. The attorney general’s office had argued that that “gay men and lesbians are disproportionately more likely to suffer from mental illness or a substance abuse problem than straight people, rendering them less fit to parent–especially children in foster care who are under tremendous stress.” 

Gill, who has been raising the brothers with his partner, said “I cried tears of joy for the first time in my life.” Gill went on to say that the ban on adoption by gay families creates an even more critical shortage of suitable parents for children already finding it difficult to find permanent homes. The ban does not increase the numbers of children raised in “traditional” households. “It results in more children being left without any parents at all. They don’t have a mom or a dad.” 

This ruling represents the second time a Florida judge has declared the ban on adoption unconstitutional. According to the Miami Herald, Monroe Circuit Judge David John Audlin, Jr, wrote in August that “Florida’s 1977 gay adoption ban arose out of ‘unveiled expressions of bigotry’ when the state was experiencing a severe backlash to demands for civil rights by gay people in Miami. Disqualifying every gay Floridian from raising a family, enjoying grandchildren or carrying on the family name, based on nothing more than lawful sexual conduct, while assuring child abusers, terrorists, drug dealers, rapists and murderers at least individualized consideration was so disproportionately severe that it violates the state and U.S. Constitutions.”

Judge Cindy Lederman write that “The challenged statute, in precluding otherwise qualified homosexuals from adopting available children, does not promote the interests of children and, in effect, causes harm to the children it is meant to protect. There is no question that the blanket exclusion of gay applicants defeats Florida’s goal of providing [foster] children a permanent family through adoption …. Based on the evidence presented from experts from all over this country and abroad it is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent. Sexual orientation no more leads to psychiatric disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, relationship instability, a lower life expectancy or sexual disorders than race, gender, socioeconomic class or any other demographic characteristic …. The most important factor in ensuring a well-adjusted child is the quality of parenting.”

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