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MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union appeared before a Florida appellate court today to urge the court to let stand an earlier ruling striking down Florida’s law barring lesbians and gay men from adopting.
“Florida’s law unconstitutionally singles out gay people and the children in their care for unequal treatment, denying many children the permanency and security that comes through adoption,” said Leslie Cooper, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project who argued before Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal today. “We are hopeful that the court will see the cruel consequences this law has on children, especially those in foster care who may never know the security of a permanent home.”
The ACLU is representing Martin Gill, who along with his partner of nine years, is raising two brothers in foster care. On November 25, 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman granted Gill adoptions of the brothers, four and eight years old, after a four-day trial that highlighted scientific evidence that gay and straight people make equally good parents. Gill and his partner, who live in North Miami, have been foster parents to the two boys for more than four years, and the boys are thriving under their care.
The circuit court decision, which found that the ban violated the equal protection guarantees of the state constitution and denies children the right to permanency, overturned the 31-year-old ban. The state immediately appealed, which was heard today before the Third District Court of Appeal, an intermediate level appellate court.
“Having lived with our boys for nearly five years and seeing them overcome their difficult beginnings to become happy, healthy, outgoing kids, it was especially difficult to listen to the state try to justify a law that not only jeopardizes our children but makes it harder for other foster kids to find permanent families,” said Gill. “But having been successful at the trial level, I have faith that the courts will recognize what a disservice this law does to the children most in need.”
The most respected Florida and national children’s health, welfare and legal advocacy groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the court to strike down the ban. These groups included The Child Welfare League of America, American Psychological Association, North American Council on Adoptable Children, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the national and Florida chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and Florida’s Children First.
“Florida can’t afford to give up loving qualified parents like Martin Gill,” said Robert Rosenwald, Litigation Director of the ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy Project. “Categorical bans like the Florida law run counter to recommended child welfare policy because they do nothing but diminish the pool of potential parents who can provide homes.”
For more information on the case, including a video of Martin Gill explaining how this law has harmed his family, visit /gill
Martin Gill is represented by Co-Director James Esseks and senior staff attorney Leslie Cooper of the ACLU LGBT Project and LGBT Project Director Robert Rosenwald and staff attorney Shelbi Day of the ACLU of Florida. The children are represented by Hilarie Bass, Elliot Scherker, Elaine Walter, Brigid Cech Samole and Ricardo Gonzalez of Greenberg Traurig, and Charles Auslander, an attorney and former District Administrator for Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF).