A Miami appeals court has 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.
The decision comes 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 battling 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.”
Just yesterday, Florida’s DCF said even if the Miami court appeals ruled the law constitutional, they would not take the children away from the Gill family.
“Those children appear to be safe, well-adjusted,” DCF’s Secretary George Sheldon, told the Herald. “We’re not in the business of doing that [removing them].” Florida’s DCF and its court system are recognizing what child health and social services authorities have been saying for years – that children raised in loving homes do well no matter what their parents’ sexual orientations are and that banning gay and lesbian couples from adopting or fostering does nothing but hurt children who could have otherwise found homes.
While the Miami court’s unanimous 3-0 decision opens the door for hundreds of children to find homes with gay Floridians, the decision as it stands would only apply to the state’s third district, which includes places like Key West and Miami. It will likely be appealed to the state Supreme Court, and if it is upheld there, it would apply statewide. Even if the state Supreme Court decides not to hear the appeal, this decision would deliver a considerable blow to the law and set the precedent for how the state’s other districts deal with the issue.
Florida remains the only state in the country that categorically denies gay and transgender 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.”
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 about adoption by gay parents. 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, and Orlando. GLAAD will host a media training on Oct. 2 in Gainesville.