This weekend will be the first Father's Day since the ACLU's landmark lawsuit in which, after a five-year legal battle, a court declared Florida's adoption ban unconstitutional, allowing me to be the legally recognized adoptive father of my two sons. Technically, this will be my first "real" Father's Day.
For Father's Day weekend, my sons and I are going to Washington, D.C., for a wedding. Our neighbors, Rob and Ken have spent 20 years together, and are finally going to D.C. to get legally married. Just a few weeks ago, I attended the adoption of their son. Watching my children play with their son, I can't help but feel a certain sense of pride knowing that our court decision has helped give many other kids the "forever family" they otherwise would have been denied.
Standing for 33 years, Florida's ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians was the nation's longest standing and most egregious. While it clearly and irrationally discriminated against gay people, the harm is caused children is much greater. The challenges faced by children in foster care are enormous. Nationwide, there are some 115,000 children waiting to be adopted, and every year thousands of foster children age out of the foster care system having never been adopted.
The 2010 census shows more gay parents than ever are willing to offer these kids loving homes, with more than two times as many gay and lesbian parents than in 2000. Now, here in Florida, we are beginning to make a real difference for children, many of whom were previously considered unadoptable. Nevertheless, there are some who seek to make it more difficult for these kids to be adopted, whether by reinstating Florida's discriminatory ban, or instituting similar laws in other states which bar adoption by unmarried persons — effectively shutting out gay families from providing children with loving homes.
The "Every Child Deserves a Family Act" would offer a solution, opening the door for many more children to be adopted. The bill bans discrimination in adoption or foster placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child.
A few weeks ago, at a Miami-area event hosted by SAVE Dade, a local LGBT organization, I met Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I introduced her to my adopted sons, and spoke with her about the struggles faced by gay men and lesbians who want to be parents and the children they're hoping to provide loving homes to. I gave her a letter with more information about the "Every Child Deserves a Family Act." She promised she would read it.
Four days later, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Republican to sign on as a cosponsor to the bill.
What's important to me isn't that this will be my first true Father's Day. What is important is that all the kids in Florida will now have more opportunities to share family experiences like Mother's and Father's Days in permanent, loving homes. Bans on adoption only result in more children who are left with no parents at all.
Let's give more children the chance to celebrate their first Father's Day. I'm asking you to join me in standing up for children: urge your Congressperson to support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.