ACLU Dismayed by 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision Upholding Florida's Anti-Gay Adoption Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
January 29, 2004 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Florida
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


NEW YORK-The American Civil Liberties Union today said that is saddened by the decision by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to uphold a Florida law that prohibits gay people from adopting.

“”We are deeply disappointed by the court’s decision,”” said Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “”We think the court is wrong in believing that government can continue to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation after the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas last summer. We think the court is wrong in thinking that the Constitution lets the government assume that sexual orientation has anything to do with good parenting. We are distressed that the court’s decision will leave thousands of children without the homes and the parents they deserve.””

“”We intend to do everything we can to make sure that none of the children involved in this case are taken from their families,”” Coles added. “”We are exploring the legal options and when we have decided what course of action to pursue we will release more details.””

The ACLU brought the lawsuit on behalf of four gay men who would like to adopt in Florida but are prevented from doing so by a state law that ban lesbians and gay men from adopting. The law was passed in 1977 in response to Anita Bryant’s infamous anti-gay campaign.

“”We were hoping that the courts would perform one of their most important functions, namely protecting people from the prejudices of legislators that were written into law a quarter of a century ago,”” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “”If single people can adopt in Florida, if gay people can be foster parents and legal guardians, and if there are thousands of children languishing in foster care, there can be no justification for Florida’s ban on gay adoptions other than impermissible prejudice and hostility toward gay people.””

Even though the state prevents lesbian and gay men from adopting, it frequently relies on gay people to be foster parents to children in need of stable homes, Simon noted. According to the Florida’s Department of Family and Children, there are over 3,400 children in Florida foster care who are in need of homes.

Two of the three families represented by the ACLU 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.

For more information about the case, go to

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The Latest in LGBTQ Rights

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ issue image

The ACLU works to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association.