Florida Ban on Adoption by Gay Parents Held Unconstitutional
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals held on Wednesday that the state’s 30-year-old ban on adoption by gay parents is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Hon. Gerald B. Cope, writing for the majority, wrote that the ban on adoption by gay parents has serves no conceivable rational government interest and is thus unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The case, Florida Department of Child and Families v. In re: Matter of Adoption of X.X.G. and N.R.G. (Docket # 08-3044), was a suit brought by two gay men seeking to adopt two young boys, foster children they have been raising in their home for over five years now. The appellees, represented by the ACLU, were denied the ability to adopt their foster children by Florida law because they are gay. Under the Florida law, Fla. Stat. §64.042(3) (2006), no person otherwise eligible to adopt under Florida adoption law may adopt if that person is a homosexual. Florida law still allows homosexual parents to be foster parents but bans them from adopting children outright. So even though the trial court ruled that the appellees are fit parents and the adoption was in the best interests of the two children, they were prevented from doing so by the Florida adoption law.
The court observed evidence that there is no real difference in the well-being of children raised by gay parents and children raised by heterosexual parents. Expert testimony was taken from phyisicans that confirmed and supported this position. As a result, the court concluded that the sexual orientation of a parent does not compromise the well-being of a child and thus the state does not serve a rational interest by preventing gay parents from adopting children. For lack of a rational government interest the Florida law failed to meet Constitutional demands under the Fourteenth Amendment and was struck down.
Conservative groups have criticized the decision as typical judicial activism. Liberty Counsel, one such conservative group, said that the Florida legislature did have a legitimate government interest is passing the law because it encourages “a stable and nurturing environment for the education and socialization of its adopted children… [b]y seeking to place the children in homes that have both a mother and father.” Liberty Counsel said the Florida court’s decision confounds common sense and our cultural traditions that children need both a mother and father.
The executive director of ACLU of Florida, Howard Simon, was quick to inform the public that this decision will not raise or lower standards for the parenting abilities of adoptive parents. The welfare of the child and the fitness of the parents to raise the child will as always be the primary consideration, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. In the absence of this unconstitutional ban gay and homosexual parents will be qualified or disqualified from adoption based purely on their merits.
The Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, supported the decision and said that even though the state has 30 days to appeal the decision, the law will no longer be enforced statewide. Governor Crist heartily endorsed the decision at a press conference on Wednesday and said that “It’s a very good day for Florida; it’s a great day for children. Children deserve a loving home to be in.”
Appeals to the decision are expected.
Eagleionline Question of the Day: Is there a substantive difference between children raised by gay parents and children raised by straight parents?