Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Portrait of a Family

Following up on this story, meet the family that put a big crack in the gay adoption ban here in Florida.

Two months after the foster child came to live in Wayne LaRue Smith’s two-story Key West home, the brown-eyed 5-year-old boy looked up from the kitchen table and, in a plaintive voice, asked what seemed a simple question.

”Will you be my daddy?”

At first, Smith, a foster father who has cared for 33 children in state custody, could not say yes.

Smith, who is openly gay, could raise other people’s children. But in Florida, the only state that outright bans all gay people from adopting, he could never adopt a child of his own.

Until now.

Last month, a Monroe Circuit judge became only the second judge in Florida history to allow a gay man or lesbian to adopt a child.

Smith’s may be a pyrrhic victory. Though Circuit Judge David John Audlin Jr.’s order will stand, it likely will hold little sway over future cases, scholars say. Moreover, the state Attorney General’s Office will not appeal the order, meaning it will never be reviewed by a higher court.

With another legal challenge set to begin next month in Miami — one that is being contested — Audlin’s order could become a historical footnote.

To Smith and his new son, though, it has the power of a landmark decision, he said.

”I knew that in our hearts, from that moment on that, one way or another, we were going to answer that question ‘yes,’ Smith said. ”It’s seven years later, but now we can.”

”It was a defining moment,” Smith said of the boy’s request seven years ago. ”There are moments in life I won’t ever forget. In that instant there was nothing I wanted more than to say yes. But this crazy state I live in won’t let me.”

The Attorney General’s Office, which is defending the adoption ban in the Miami case next month, has argued in court records they are upholding public morality and providing for the healthy development of foster children by ensuring they are raised by dual-sex parents.

”Chief among the interests served by Florida’s adoption law is the best interest of Florida children,” Assistant Attorney General Valerie J. Martin has written. ”Can it be seriously contended that an arguably rational basis does not exist for placing adoptive children in the mainstream of American family life?”

Gee, they look incredibly mainstream to me: a home, two loving parents, school, friends, even a white picket fence. The fact that they don’t look mainstream to the state attorney general sounds more like his problem than anyone else’s.