A Miami appeals court ruled 3-0 on Wednesday to uphold a lower court’s ruling that Florida’s gay adoption ban is unconstitutional.
While several states have de facto gay adoption bans by confining adoption rights to married couples where marriage is only allowed between persons of the opposite sex, Florida’s 33-year-old ban is the only one in America to explicitly exclude gay and lesbian people from adopting.
Wednesday’s decision by the 3rd District Court of Appeals upholds a 2008 decision by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman who, upon finding “no rational basis” for the ban, allowed Frank Martin Gill to remain the parent of his two sons whom Gill had fostered for several years and wanted to parent with his male partner.
As per the appeal panel’s opinion(.pdf), the three judges agreed with the lower court’s ruling that allowing homosexual couples to foster but not adopt children undercut the rationality of the ban and further undermined arguments offered by the state defendants that lesbian and gay couples are unsuitable parents because, the defendants contended, lesbian and gay people are more prone to drug abuse, mental illness and dangerous lifestyle choices.
The appeals panel dismissed these claims, saying the state’s “experts’ opinions were not valid from a scientific point of view” and went contrary to the general consensus of thinking in the field which finds that lesbian and gay parents are as capable as their heterosexual counterparts.
From the Miami Herald:
“Given a total ban on adoption by homosexual persons, one might expect that this reflected a legislative judgment that homosexual persons are, as a group, unfit to be parents,” the opinion states. “No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument.
“To the contrary, the parties agree `that gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents.’ ”
Wednesday’s ruling is unlikely to be the end of this case, with the Florida Supreme Court the ultimate destination.
Florida’s Attorney General Bill McCollum, who recently fell short in his bid to become Florida’s governor when he lost in the GOP primary, was quoted in an interview last month saying he believed Florida should also ban lesbian and gay foster parents.
The AG vigorously defended the gay adoption ban in court. His choice of expert witnesses, namely one George Rekers, came under fire for both Reker’s apparent lack of credibility for the task and a subsequent and much publicized debacle involving a holiday companion who also worked as a rent boy.
As for the father at the heart of this case, the Associated Press reports:
Gill said he’ll take the case as far as he can if the state appeals. The yearlong wait for the decision has been agony, with him worrying “week after week that my kids might be taken away.”
He’s tried to shield the boys, now six and 10, by not discussing that ramifications of the case with them and putting blocks on their TV at home. If the state doesn’t appeal, Gill said he can’t wait to tell them he and his partner are their “forever parents” and they can finally share the same last name. It’s been disappointing for the boys to enroll in school with different last names, he said.
“I’m actually going to get their birth certificates with me listed as their father. That will be a thrilling thing for me.” Gill told The Associated Press in a telephone call. “I think the birth certificates are going to have a prominent place in our house. That will be the written proof of all of this struggle.”
Following the appeal panel’s decision, Governor Charlie Crist has said that the state will immediately halt enforcement of the ban.
AG McCollum has yet to announce whether there will be an appeal.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to nerdcoregirl.