A state appeals court in Florida toppled a monument to bigotry last week, declaring unconstitutional a 33-year-old state law that prohibited gay people from adopting children. The animus behind the ban is unmistakable. Its sponsor in the Florida State Senate, Curtis Peterson, declared in 1977 that its purpose was to send a message to the gay community that “we’re really tired of you” and “we wish you’d go back into the closet.”
The unanimous decision by three judges on Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal — Republican appointees — found “no rational basis” to the state’s approach of banning adoption by gay men and lesbians while allowing them to be foster parents. The court said it violated the State Constitution’s equal protection clause.
The case was brought by Martin Gill, a gay man seeking to adopt two brothers he took in as foster children more than five years ago. When they arrived, at ages 4 years and 4 months, they were in bad shape. Both had ringworm; the younger brother also had a raging ear infection while the older one did not speak for a month. Today both boys are thriving.
Mr. Gill’s side provided extensive evidence at trial to show there is no difference in the well-being of children raised by loving gay parents versus loving heterosexual parents. Reviewing that evidence, as well as Mr. Gill’s efforts, the appeals court agreed, and praised Mr. Gill for being “an exceptional parent.”
The state had nothing credible to offer to justify the adoption ban. It presented only two expert witnesses, noted Judge Gerald Cope Jr., who wrote the main opinion. One witness undercut the state’s case by saying adoption decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. Opposing experts quickly discredited the state’s second witness, Dr. George Rekers, a Baptist minister and clinical psychologist (subsequently caught up in a sex scandal) whose pseudo-scientific research was laughable.
The court’s decision is a victory for Mr. Gill and his family and for many hundreds of foster children in Florida in need of a good home. In recent months, there have also been several major federal court rulings voiding other discriminatory laws against gay people on equality grounds. That is heartening progress. (Source)