State to appeal ruling that clears way for gay adoption

11/25/08 Mitch E. Perry
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For more than 30 years, Florida has been the only state in the country that bans gay couples from adopting children. But that ban may soon be a thing of the past.

This morning in Miami, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge struck down the long-standing ban.

Robert Rosenwald is director of the LGBT Advocacy Project at the ACLU of Florida, and one of the attorneys working for the plaintiff in the case, Martin Gill. Rosenwald said he’s convinced this law is going to fall.

In her 53-page ruling, Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said, “It’s clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent.”

Nancy Polikoff is a professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law and the author of the book, Beyond (Straight and Gay)Marriage : Valuing all families Under the Law. She has closely been following the gay adoption ban in Florida, and says that even though the state will appeal Lederman’s decision, she truly believes that the ruling will finally end the ban.

The case involves Frank Martin Gill, a 47-year-old North Miami man, who along with his partner, have been raising two brothers, now 4 and 8, for the last four years. Because he had fostered children in the past, the Department of Children and Families asked if they would take care of the boys. Gill paused initially because he was considering moving, but agreed to take the boys on a temporary basis. Gays are allowed to be foster parents in Florida.

But in 2006, a judge terminated the parental rights of the biological parents, as the boys ultimately bonded with their new family.

According to the ACLU, a psychologist who evaluated the boys recommended that it would be in the boys’ best interest to be adopted by Martin.

Nancy Politkoff said the state was badly served by one its experts, George Rekers, a professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of South Carolina.

Earlier this year, a judge in Key West ruled the ban unconstitutional and granted an adoption by gay parents, but the state did not challenge that ruling. They did in the Gill case.

Attorney Robert Rosenwald from the ACLU said essentially, the judge believed the testimony provided by their expert witnesses saying it was a case of science over assumptions.

Although Florida had been the only state in the country to ban gay adoption, an initiative in Arkansas passed earlier this month instituted a ban on adoption and foster parenting by anyone living with an unmarried partner.

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