Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Challenging the Gay Adoption Ban in Florida

Another foster father is challenging Florida’s ban on gays and lesbians adopting children.

Frank Martin Gill never set out to smash Florida’s gay adoption law. A foster parent, Gill took two half-brothers into his North Miami home in 2004 when a child abuse investigator asked for his help. It was supposed to be temporary.

But weeks turned into months, and then years. Gill and the two boys became a family.

Now, a month after a Key West judge declared Florida’s gay adoption law unconstitutional in a separate but narrow case, Gill and a team of lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union will present a new challenge to Florida’s 31-year-old law that forbids gay people from adopting.

”I tried to make them feel, from the beginning, like they had a permanent home,” Gill said of the boys.

He said he told the boys: ”I’ll be your daddy; it doesn’t matter what happens, I’ll always be your daddy.”

Gill’s attorney, Robert F. Rosenwald Jr. of the ACLU, said the case boils down to a simple human equation: ”What is at stake in this trial are two little boys getting to know that they get to stay at the only home they’ve ever known.”

In Florida, gay people can foster children, but they cannot adopt. Although the Key West ruling declared the law unconstitutional, it was not appealed to a higher court, so its significance as legal precedent remains weak.

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman will begin a trial over Gill’s petition to adopt the two half-siblings. Their mother and respective fathers lost their rights to raise them in 2006.

Opposing Gill are the Florida Department of Children & Families and the state attorney general’s office. Neil Skene, a DCF special counsel, said he couldn’t discuss the Gill adoption, citing the confidentiality of adoption cases. He said that, in general, DCF ”is obliged by statute to oppose the adoption” when any potential adoptive parent discloses that he or she is gay. The attorney general defends state laws that are challenged, Skene said.

Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday that he is not reconsidering the adoption ban. ”No second thoughts,” he said.

As the article notes, the precedent has already been set by a couple in Key West. While it’s understandable that the attorney general is obligated to defend state law no matter how odious, the governor, who should know something about the sting of preconceived ideas regarding sexual orientation, walks a fine line between reconsidering the ban and granting full equality to all the citizens of the state, which includes a sizable gay population, and alienating the fundamentalists, to whom he has to suck up in order to stay in office.

Let me make it simple for you, Governor: denying citizens their rights based solely on something innate like being gay is bigotry, plain and simple. Got any second thoughts about that?