ACLU Asks Appeals Court to Reconsider Decision Upholding Florida's Anti-Gay Adoption Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
February 18, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the United States Court of Appeals in Atlanta to reconsider its recent ruling upholding a Florida law that excludes gay people from adopting.

""The appeals court completely misunderstood the Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which says that states can no longer make up reasons to discriminate against gay people,"" said Matt Coles, director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. ""Sexual orientation has nothing to do with a person's ability to parent, and this law has nothing to do with child welfare. For the sake of the thousands of children in Florida in need of a home, we hope the court will reconsider.""

In a motion filed with the court today, the ACLU asked the court to reconsider the ruling. The three-judge panel that issued the decision could agree to reconsider the case, the full court could decide to do so, or the court could decline to rehear the case at all.

""The Florida law was passed to punish gay people, but the sad, harsh reality is that it harms the 4,800 children who are languishing in Florida's foster care system and waiting to be adopted into permanent, loving homes,"" said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. ""While Florida claims the law is justified because children should be with married mothers and fathers, these children don't have any permanent family. For a court to accept this justification flies in the face of our Constitution.""

The ACLU brought the lawsuit in 1998 on behalf of four gay men who wanted to adopt in Florida but were preventing from doing so by the adoption ban. The law was passed in 1977 in response to Anita Bryant's infamous anti-gay campaign. On January 29, 2004, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a decision upholding the law.

While the state currently will not let gay people adopt, it does rely on gay people to be foster parents. Two of the three families represented by the ACLU in the case are raising Florida foster children. Steven Lofton and his partner Roger Croteau are raising five children, including three foster children from Florida. Although the Florida children - two 16-year-olds and a 12-year-old -- have never known any other family, they cannot be adopted by Lofton or Croteau because of Florida's law. Wayne Smith and Dan Skahen have willingly taken in many foster children over the years and are now foster parents to six children. Doug Houghton has been the legal guardian of an 11-year-old boy for seven years. Even though the child's biological father wants Houghton to be the legal parent, Houghton can't adopt because of Florida's law.

Every mainstream child advocacy and mental health organization, including the Child Welfare League of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and National Association of Social Workers, is opposed to excluding gay people from adoption. The Child Welfare League of America, Children's Rights, Inc., Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, National Center for Youth Law and the North American Council on Adoptable Children submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to strike down the ban.

ACLU legal papers are online at /node/35010

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