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Ruling against law banning gay couples from right to adopt

By Staff | Nov 25, 2008

A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ruled against a state law banning gay couples from adopting children Monday, perhaps opening the door for a statewide challenge of the ban in the Florida Supreme Court.

Judge Cindy Lederman ruled against the 31-year-old law, stating that “there is no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting.”

The state’s argument, on the other hand, is that homes with gay parents have “a supposed dark cloud hovering,” and negatively affect children.

Florida is the only state that bans gay adoptions, and after Nov. 4 it became one of a handful of other states banning gay marriage. The state had four existing anti-gay marriage laws, yet the purpose of the constitutional amendment was to protect the rule from being overturned in court.

John Stemberger, architect of Florida’s Amendment 2, described Tuesday’s decision as another example of “classic judicial activism.”

Under the ban, any person applying to adopt a child is first asked their sexual orientation. If the person identifies themselves as homosexual their application is immediately discarded.

For now that policy has been overturned in Miami-Dade County where Martin Gill, 47, and his male partner can now adopt two children who they have cared for as foster parents since 2004.

Officials from The Children’s Network were unable to determine Tuesday if the ruling applies to all adoption cases across the state.

“Until we receive word from the Department of Children and Families that any specific laws have changed we can’t take an opinion on them,” said Aimee McLaughlin, spokesperson for The Children’s Network of Southwest Florida.

There are currently 125 children waiting to be adopted, the network reported last week, and 25 of them have no identified homes.

Lifting the ban could theoretically decrease the number of local children waiting for an adoption by increasing eligible parents, but representatives from DCF said there have been no other related petitions filed by gay parents to adopt. Of course, there is no way to measure how many same-sex couples would be interested.

“I don’t know of another petition currently pending like this. What happens next, I don’t know,” said Neil Skene, spokesperson for DCF.

Skene explained that DCF has filed an appeal to make sure the law remains uniform.

“One reason for appealing is that we would like a decision that applies statewide so everyone knows what the rules are,” said Skene.

Supporters of the ban contend that a child growing up in a homosexual household is disadvantaged, and as a result the child is less sociable and achieves lower grades. On the other hand, same-sex couples wishing to adopt a child associate the state ban with a denial of civil rights.

According to the Associated Press, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union showcased experts in child psychology and social workers who testified that there is no correlation between gay households and damaging effects on children.

Same-sex adoptions are also currently supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association.