For more than three decades, Florida law has stood firmly against adoption by gays and lesbians. In the eyes of the so-called Sunshine State, upholding bigotry was more important than giving loving homes to children in need. Better to be locked in a foster-care system that does not benefit children or offer them any sense of permanence, the state seemed to say, than to have two loving parents of the same gender.
The Monroe Circuit Court ruled that the law banning gay adoption is unconstitutional because it singles out a group for arbitrary punishment. This isn’t the first time such a ruling has come down: In 1991, judges questioned the constitutionality of the anti-GLBT statute, but two separate challenges fizzled.
Not this time: The current case centered around a 13-year-old special-needs boy who, since 2001, was the foster child of a gay man. The foster father was made the child’s legal guardian in 2006.
From the Miami Herald:
… At a recent hearing, the boy testified he wanted the man to be his ”forever father” — like all the other kids had — ”because I love him,” the order says.
A home study by a social worker ”highly” recommended the guardian and his partner be allowed to adopt the boy, saying the two men provided a ”loving and nurturing home,” provided ”fair and consistent” discipline and are financially secure, the order says.
Miami attorney Alan Mishael, who represents [the child]’s guardian, declined to discuss the ruling, since [Circuit Judge David J. Audlin Jr.] has not yet published it formally. He said the ruling is less about public policy than the welfare of a former foster child who wants a father of his own.
”This is a case about a young man who already had a permanent guardian but wanted to have a father,” Mishael said. “That’s what the case is about. That’s all it’s about.”
That’s right: It’s about love and family and justice too — yes, for the foster dad, but primarily for his son.
A wee bit more from the article:
In the ruling, the judge noted that the statute was passed by lawmakers in 1977 amid a politically charged campaign to, as one lawmaker at the time put it, send gay people ”back into the closet.” Audin said the law violates the Constitution’s separation of powers by preventing family court and child welfare judges from deciding case-by-case what is best for a child.
”Contrary to every child welfare principle,” Audlin wrote, ”the gay adoption ban operates as a conclusive or irrebuttable presumption that . . . it is never in the best interest of any adoptee to be adopted by a homosexual,” Audlin wrote.
This certainly doesn’t settle the matter of gay adoption completely, but this one ruling involving one family does chip away at the bigoted law, and that may help in the next expected court challenge, a Miami case likely to hit the court next month. Right-wing anti-gay groups surely will mobilize to fight this (the leader of one Florida ‘phobe group called the decision “absurd,” according to the Herald), and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum does have the authority to appeal the ruling. So far he has been quiet on the matter.
Also, the law has been upheld before — once, in 1991, when a lower court overturned a previous ruling of unconstitutionality, and again in 1995, when the state Supreme Court upheld that overturning.
Still, there is reason for justice-loving people to hope.
”Cracks begin to develop in legal doctrine,” law professor Michael Allen of Stetson University St. Petersburg told the Herald. “Even if it has no effect as precedent and it is not repeated someplace else, it’s a crack. If you get enough cracks, things break.”
The only other US state that completely forbids adoption by gays and lesbians is Mississippi.