Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum Friday announced that he will not appeal last month’s ruling by a state appellate court striking down a state law barring gay people from adopting. Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) had already announced that they would not appeal the decision. Attorney General Bill McCollum’s announcement puts a final end to the law after 33 years on the books.
In late September, a Miami appeals court ruled that Florida’s 33-year-old adoption ban, which bars gay and lesbian parents from providing loving and permanent homes to children, is unconstitutional.
“Given a total ban on adoption…one might expect that this reflected a legislative judgment that [gay] persons are, as a group, unfit to be parents,” the opinion states, according to The Miami Herald.
“No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument. To the contrary, the parties agree ‘that gay people make equally good parents,’” the opinion continues.
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The decision came down nearly two years after Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman ruled 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,” in the case of Martin Gill, who was challenging the state’s Department of Children and Families over the adoption of two young brothers whom he had been caring for under the foster care system.
“Having raised our boys for nearly five years and seeing them overcome their difficult beginnings to become happy, healthy, outgoing kids, it was especially difficult to listen to the state try to justify a law that not only jeopardizes our children but makes it harder for other foster kids to find permanent families,” said Gill. “I am thrilled that the court has recognized what a disservice this law does to the children most in need.”
Florida had been the only state in the country that categorically denied gay people from adopting, which has adversely affected the state’s youth. Currently, there are 3,500 eligible kids in the foster system waiting to be adopted.
“Finally, a piece of 30-year-old prejudice has been struck from the law books in Florida,” Howard Simon, who heads the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and represented Gill in his court battle, told the Herald. “This is good news for the advancement of human rights and the children in Florida’s troubled foster-care system.”
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GLAAD, in a three-year public education campaign with the ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project, has been working to build public support among Floridians to end the adoption ban. The campaign that GLAAD is assisting on is designed to help people understand how the adoption ban hurts children and families and to shift public opinion about the issue.
GLAAD has conducted media trainings in Miami, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Naples, Orlando, and Gainesville.