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Gay adoption ban unconstitutional

Florida court supports judge’s 2008 ruling

Martin Gill (right) embraced his lawyer yesterday. A court affirmed the right of Gill and his partner to adopt. Martin Gill (right) embraced his lawyer yesterday. A court affirmed the right of Gill and his partner to adopt. (Alan Diaz/ Associated Press)
By Curt Anderson and Kelli Kennedy
Associated Press / September 23, 2010

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MIAMI — Florida will immediately stop enforcing its ban on adoptions by gay people following a decision by a state appeals court that the three-decade-old law is unconstitutional, Governor Charlie Crist said yesterday.

Crist announced the decision after the Court of Appeal for the Third District upheld a 2008 ruling by a Miami-Dade judge, who found “no rational basis’’ for the ban when she approved the adoption of two young brothers by Martin Gill and his male partner.

“I’m very pleased with the ruling on behalf of the Gills,’’ Crist told reporters in Tallahassee. “It’s a great day for children. Children deserve a loving home.’’

The appeals court decision is not the final word. Gill and the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him and his partner, want the state to take the case to the Florida Supreme Court to obtain a final statewide determination on the law.

“If that continues to be their desire, we would support that, and I think given the makeup of the current Supreme Court, they would have a very good chance to get a very good ruling,’’ said Crist, a former Republican running for the US Senate as an independent.

Earlier this month, Crist’s campaign issued a position paper supporting several gay rights issues he’d once opposed, including adoption rights.

The prohibition was first enacted in 1977 and is the only law of its kind in the nation, according to court records. Arkansas and Utah ban any unmarried straight or gay couples from adopting or fostering children. Mississippi bans gay couples, but not single gays, from adopting.

“Clearly, Florida’s law was the most draconian in the nation until today,’’ said Robert Rosenwald, the lead counsel on the case for the Florida ACLU.

In a 28-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the court noted that gay people are permitted to become foster parents or legal guardians in Florida, yet are the only group not allowed to adopt.

“It is difficult to see any rational basis in utilizing homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on those same persons,’’ Judge Gerald Cope wrote for the panel. “All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents.’’

The ruling was made in an appeal of the 2008 decision by the state Department of Children and Families, which had urged the judges to consider evidence of what it said were risk factors among gay parents. These factors, according to attorneys for the department, included more sexual activity by children of gay parents and more incidents of teasing and bullying suffered by children from gay households.

The appeals panel said the state’s evidence did not back up those claims and that its “experts’ opinions were not valid from a scientific point of view.’’

DCF now agrees, according to yesterday’s ruling, “that gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents.’’

DCF said in a statement late yesterday that it was analyzing the decision and would determine ahead of the 30-day deadline whether to appeal.

Gill said he’ll take the case as far as he can if the state appeals.

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