Florida's ban on gay adoptions headed to appeals court (August 26, 2009 - Miami Herald - CAROL MARBIN MILLER)
Martin Gill's long journey to become the legal father to two foster children will take him Wednesday to Florida International University's law school -- where his attorneys are asking a Miami appeals court to toss out Florida's 31-year-old ban on adoption by gay people.
The Third District Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments from attorneys for both Gill and the Florida Department of Children & Families, which has been fighting the gay North Miami man's efforts to adopt two boys he has raised in foster care since 2004. The two half-brothers were in DCF's care due to their mother's cocaine addiction.
The oral arguments are being held at FIU, which is close to the appeals court, because the usual courtroom is being remodeled to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Chief Judge Juan Ramirez Jr. The courtroom, he said, is ``torn up,'' and will not be finished for a few more weeks.
Florida is the only state that excludes all gay men and lesbians from adopting, though it allows gay and lesbian foster parents. Last year, voters in Arkansas passed a measure forbidding adoption by single people after a court there dismissed a state rule excluding gay people from fostering children.
Legal experts say the dispute will ultimately be decided by the Florida Supreme Court.
Last November, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman declared Florida's ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians unconstitutional, rejecting the state's claim that the law promotes public morality and the best interests of foster children who may be harmed by same-sex parents.
Lederman's ruling allowed Gill, who has been in a long-term relationship with a partner, to adopt two brothers the judge identified as ``John'' and ``James'' -- not the boys' real names -- from foster care. The boys are 5 and 9.
Lederman's 31-page ruling parsed 30 years' worth of psychological and sociological research on child-rearing and sexuality. She concluded that studies overwhelmingly have shown that gay people can parent as effectively as straight people and do no harm to their children.
``The children have thrived with their foster parents, and even DCF had to agree that it was in their best interest for that foster parent to adopt them,'' said Hilarie Bass, a Greenberg Traurig attorney who is representing the two boys.
``We believe the trial court made the appropriate findings of fact, based on the undisputed evidence that there is no inherent basis to disqualify homosexuals from adopting in this state, since there is no proof that homosexuals can't be excellent parents,'' Bass added.
Said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represents Gill: ``For far too long, the welfare of children trapped in Florida's scandal-ridden foster-care system has been held hostage to ugly anti-gay bigotry.''
``Martin Gill has provided a nurturing home for these now-thriving brothers -- ironically, at the state's request -- and state officials are tasked with defending a law that may serve a political purpose, but is repudiated by every professional organization with expertise in the rearing of healthy children.''
Judi Spann, DCF's deputy chief of staff, said the agency's guiding light in the case, as in all cases, is ``the best interests'' of the children.
``DCF is not going to violate state law,'' Spann said. ``The attorney general has responsibility to uphold and defend the Constitution. The attorney general will be representing DCF in this case.''
The agency, Spann said, is hopeful that state appeals courts will resolve the issue over gay adoption with some finality so DCF does not have to constantly relitigate every time a gay man or lesbian seeks to adopt.
``We are definitely hoping for a resolution in the appellate courts,'' she said.
I'm hopeful he can win.
Off Topic...it seems I can't add tags to the entry.