McCollum's Decision Brings Overdue End To Notorious Law After 33 Years
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 22, 2010
MIAMI – Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that he will not appeal last month's ruling by a state appellate court striking down a state law barring gay people from adopting. Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) had already announced that they would not appeal the decision. Attorney General Bill McCollum's announcement puts a final end to the law after 33 years on the books.
The appellate court ruling arose in an American Civil Liberties Union legal challenge to the ban on behalf of Martin Gill, who wanted to adopt two foster children he and his partner have been raising for almost six years.
"This law, by baselessly branding gay people unfit parents, was one of the most notorious anti-gay laws in the country, and we are delighted that it has been ended once and for all," said Leslie Cooper, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project, who argued the case before Florida's Third District Court of Appeal. "This victory means that the thousands of children in Florida who are waiting to be adopted will no longer be needlessly deprived of willing and able parents who can give them the love and support of a family."
In November 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman held that the statute barring adoption by gay people is unconstitutional and granted Martin Gill's petition to adopt the now six- and ten-year-old brothers after a four-day trial featuring experts who established that research confirms that gay and straight people make equally good parents. Last month, the Third District Court of Appeal agreed, recognizing that the scientific evidence shows that "there are no differences in the parenting of homosexuals or the adjustment of their children. . . [and] the issue is so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise; the best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption."
"We are relieved that this process has finally come to an end, and that we can focus on being a family," said Gill. "Our boys have overcome difficult beginnings to become happy, healthy kids. All children deserve a chance at finding a stable, loving and permanent home. Over the 33 years of the ban, this archaic law has harmed countless foster children by denying them a forever family."
"The children in Florida's foster care system waiting to be adopted deserved better than this cruel policy," said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. "This ban was nothing more than prejudice propped up by junk science. We are thankful that, as a result of this victory, the Gill family can move on with their lives and children trapped in our state's foster care system will have the opportunity for a better life in the permanent homes they deserve."
Martin Gill is represented by senior staff attorney Leslie Cooper and Director James Esseks of the ACLU LGBT Project, and Legal Director Randall Marshall 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 DCF.