Florida Allows Same-Sex Couples to Adopt
Special Report - December 1, 2008
On November 25, a Florida circuit court judge struck down a 31-year-old state law banning homosexuals from adopting, concluding in part that “the best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption.” The law was challenged by Martin Gill, a Miami resident, who has been serving as a foster parent in Florida along with his male partner, and sought to adopt two little boys who have been in his care since 2004. The ruling, which contradicts a prior federal appeals court decision upholding the law, granted full adoption rights to Mr. Gill.
Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman ruled that the Florida statute prohibiting homosexuals from adopting “violates the Petitioner and the Children’s equal protection rights guaranteed” by the state constitution “without satisfying a rational basis.” In addition, she found that, “the statutory exclusion defeats a child’s right to permanency as provided by federal and state law pursuant to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.” That law “requires the state to provide all dependent children with a stable and permanent home” as quickly as possible.
In her 53-page ruling, Judge Lederman argued that Florida already allows homosexual individuals to serve as foster parents and legal guardians to dependent children. “The Department’s position is that homosexuality is immoral. Yet, homosexuals may be lawful foster parents in Florida and care for our most fragile children who have been abused, neglected and abandoned,” Lederman wrote. “ As such, the exclusion forbidding homosexuals to adopt children does not further the public morality interest it seeks to combat. Based on this scenario, there can be no rationally related public morality interest differentiating in the State’s support of a homosexual’s long-term foster care relationship with a child and a denial of their legal relationship through adoption.” She also wrote that, “it is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent…The most important factor in ensuring a well adjusted child is the quality of parenting.”
The Florida statute, which was enacted in 1977, was the last remaining state law in the nation to completely outlaw adoption by homosexual individuals. It has survived several legal challenges over the years, and was upheld as recently as 2004 by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In that ruling, the federal appeals court concluded that the State “has made the determination that it is not in the best interests of its displaced children to be adopted by individuals who ‘engage in current, voluntary homosexual activity,’and we have found nothing in the Constitution that forbids this policy judgment. Thus, any argument that the Florida legislature was misguided in its decision is one of legislative policy, not constitutional law.”
“This ruling is yet another example of what happens when activist judges attempt to legislate from the bench,” said John Rustin, director of government relations. “A vast and growing body of social science evidence shows that children do best when they are raised in an intact family with two opposite sex married parents.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.