Florida is the only state with a law that specifically prohibits homosexual men and women from adopting children. While there have been numerous bills proposed to change this law passed in 1977, the Florida Legislature has declined to take any action on this issue. A legal challenge has begun over the past few years and appears to be gaining momentum in recent months.
By now, many are familiar with Martin Gill and his legal battle to adopt the young boys he has cared for since their entry into state care. Gill, a licensed foster parent and open homosexual, provided a loving home to the boys. All who know the boys agree they have flourished while under the care of Gill but Gill’s adoption was denied by the state because of his sexual orientation. Miami Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman, an experienced Dependency Judge who has presided over the cases of thousands of children in Florida’s foster care system, overruled the objection of the state and entered a Final Judgment of Adoption finding the Florida Statute unconstitutional.
The state appealed this decision and the case is pending in the District Court of Appeal, Third District. The state has argued that homosexuals are not a suspect class and thus only a rational basis is needed for the law. The state claims there is a rational basis for the law as there are studies that show that there is a higher risk of psychiatric disorders in children adopted by homosexual parents.
Advocates for Gill have argued that the issue of permanency for children should be treated as a fundamental right. Moreover, these advocates state that the research shows that homosexuals and straight people make equally good parents. Moreover, the state’s argument is problematic in light of the fact that Florida allows homosexuals to be licensed foster parents caring for our most fragile youth. These advocates are also attempting to show that the statute violates the separation of powers. Their argument is that Juvenile Courts have been given the power to act in the best interest of the children under their jurisdiction and the Florida Legislature is overreaching with the statute.
Subsequent to the Gill adoption, South Florida Circuit Judges have found the statute unconstitutional in two more cases and rendered a Final Judgment of Adoption. Once the Third DCA issues a ruling in the Gill case, there will most likely be an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. While there is a bill pending to legalize gay adoption in Florida, passage of this bill is unlikely this year.
I will continue to post updates about this issue on Facebook and Twitter as it appears the issue is far from definitive resolution in Florida.