The LGBT Project and the ACLU of Florida recently completed a trial in juvenile court in Miami challenging a Florida law that bars lesbians and gay men from adopting in the state. The ACLU is representing a gay man, Martin Gill, who, along with his partner of eight years, has been raising two foster children. The ACLU is asking the court to declare the Florida ban unconstitutional and allow our client to adopt the two brothers that the couple have been raising for the past four years.
Martin Gill (second from left) with the ACLU's Leslie Cooper, James Esseks, and Rob Rosenwald
One of the children was four and the other a baby when the couple took them into their home in North Miami just before Christmas 2004. Although Martin and his partner decided to stop fostering because they were planning to move out of state eventually, they say they just couldn’t resist when the state asked them to provide short-term care for the two boys. They knew they could give the children a special Christmas. Over time it became clear that the children would not be returned to their biological parents, and in 2006, a judge terminated the parental rights of the biological parents. Meanwhile, the children have thrived in their new home and are closely bonded to their foster parents. Both the lawyer and the guardian representing the children have recommended to the court that it’s in the children’s best interest to be adopted by Martin.
This is not the first time the ACLU has challenged the Florida law barring lesbians and gay men from adopting, which was passed in 1977 as a result of an anti-gay crusade led by the former beauty queen and orange juice spokesperson Anita Bryant. This time, however, the ACLU had the opportunity to present the testimony of some of the world’s most respected experts on child welfare and development to refute the baseless stereotypes and myths about the ability of lesbians and gay men to parent that have been used to keep this law on the books. That strategy proved successful for us in 2006, when an ACLU lawsuit resulted in the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously overturning a policy that barred lesbians and gay men from serving as foster parents.
More than three decades of social science research has consistently shown that gay people are just as capable of making good parents as heterosexuals and their children are just as well adjusted. Categorical bans like the Florida law barring gay people from adopting don’t do a thing to help protect children. All potential adoptive parents are thoroughly screened. Categorical bans only serve to reduce the pool of potential parents who are willing to adopt, making it that much harder for the state to find homes for children in need. That’s why all the respected child welfare organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose laws like Florida’s.
According to a recent Miami Herald story about the case, there are 3,270 foster children in the state who are available for adoption that the state is trying to find permanent homes. For the sake of the two children being raised by Martin and his partner, as well as the 3,268 other children in the state who are in need of permanent families, we’re hoping this time the courts put the needs of children first and recognize it’s time for this law to go.
We are expecting a decision on November 25, 2008. Check back here for the court’s decision and trial testimony.
Want to learn more about the rights of LGBT parents and their children? Visit the ACLU LGBT Project’s online toolkit, Get Busy, Get Equal!