Mainstream Children's Groups 'Unequivocally' Urge Appeals Court to Overturn Florida Gay Adoption Ban

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
February 20, 2002 12:00 am

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Mainstream Children’s Groups ‘Unequivocally’
Urge Appeals Court to Overturn Florida Gay Adoption Ban FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ATLANTA – Some of the nation’s largest, oldest and most respected children’s groups today told a federal appeals court that Florida’s law banning gay adoption hurts kids, in a brief filed in support of the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit challenging the adoption ban.

Florida’s law – by far the toughest adoption ban in the nation – “”not only has no child welfare basis whatsoever, but it also affirmatively hurts children awaiting adoption by depriving them of the opportunity to be adopted by lesbians and gay men who are willing to provide them with loving families,”” the groups said in legal papers filed today at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta.

“”Today, the nation’s most respected voices for children have made it clear that this law is not helping anyone,”” said Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project. “”In fact, it’s hurting thousands of people – most urgently the 3,400 kids in foster care in Florida who could be adopted right now if qualified parents came forward.””

The brief was filed by the Child Welfare League of America, an 80-year-old organization with 1,000 public and private member agencies serving more than 3 million kids and their families yearly, along with other groups. Last week, the ACLU filed its written arguments in the appeal, charging that the Florida law unconstitutionally discriminates against lesbians and gay men and deprives children statewide of permanent homes with loving parents.

In today’s 27-page brief, the children’s groups said, “”No child welfare basis exists for categorically excluding lesbians and gay men from adopting children. Social science research unanimously demonstrates that lesbians and gay men can be and are good parents, and being raised by lesbian or gay parents is not harmful to children.””

The children’s groups note that by reducing the pool of qualified adoptive parents, the state of Florida is causing some children to be left with no parents at all. Case-by-case determinations – factoring in each child’s individual needs and whether each prospective parent can meet them – is the widely accepted standard for adoptive placement, the groups explain. Today’s action by the children’s groups comes just two weeks after the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement supporting “”second-parent”” adoption by same-sex partners of lesbian and gay parents.

In the Florida case, the ACLU represents three families in a federal lawsuit challenging the gay adoption ban. Steven Lofton and his partner Roger Croteau are raising five children, including three Florida foster children. Although the kids — ages 14, 10 and 14 — have never known another family, they cannot be adopted by Lofton or Croteau because of Florida’s law. Doug Houghton has raised a 10-year-old boy for six years but also cannot adopt him because of Florida’s law. When a lower court dismissed the lawsuit last year, the judge said that Houghton and the boy are just as close as biological parents and their children. Wayne Smith and Dan Skahen provide foster care to various children as needed, but cannot adopt any children because of Florida’s law.

The ban on gay adoption was passed by the state legislature in 1977, in the midst of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade. The bill’s sponsor in the State Senate told a local newspaper at the time that the new law was intended to send this message to lesbians and gay men: “”We are really tired of you. We wish you’d go back in the closet.””

In sworn depositions for the case, the state’s leading official overseeing adoption policy was asked, “”Do you know of any child welfare reason at all for excluding gay people from adopting children?”” The official, Carol Hutchison, answered, “”No.”” She was then asked if she believes children’s best interests would be served if lesbians and gay men were allowed to adopt. “”As I previously stated, I think it’s contraindicated to rule out such a large population of people who quite possibly could meet the needs [of] awaiting children,”” she said.

The 43-page brief appealing the case, which was filed last week, is online at: /Files/Files.cfm?ID=10002&c=184

A news release about the filing of the ACLU’s appeals court challenge is online at /node/9377

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