Florida’s ban on adoption by gays or lesbians has already been overturned by one court. Now that ruling is being appealed.
A Miami appeals court that will help decide the fate of Florida’s ban on adoption by gay people grilled lawyers on both sides of the dispute Wednesday as it grappled with a thorny question: Does the law protect children from a risky lifestyle, or merely punish a group disliked by lawmakers?
During oral arguments before the Third District Court of Appeal, an attorney representing the Department of Children & Families defended Florida’s 32-year-old ban on gay adoption by insisting the state has a sensible interest in protecting children from social ills that are more common among gay men and women.
”There is evidence that homosexuals have higher rates of mental disorders, suicide and domestic violence,” said Timothy D. Osterhaus, deputy solicitor general for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is representing DCF. ”This is a plausible rationale.”
And in comments outside a Florida International University courtroom, where the arguments were held, John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, declared it was good public policy to promote the adoption of vulnerable children only by households headed by married mothers and fathers.
”We should focus on what is best for kids, not on what we can get by with,” said Stemberger, who was heckled and interrupted by activists as he answered questions from the press.
I doubt that it occurs to Mr. Osterhaus that one of the reasons homosexuals might have higher rates of mental disorders, etc. would be related to being demonized by the ignorant homophobes like Mr. Stemberger and a legislature that went out of its way to single out gays and lesbians for the adoption ban in 1977. Nothing engenders a little self-doubt like being ostracized and marginalized by state statute.
The appeals panel — Judges Gerald B. Cope Jr., Frank A. Shepherd and Vance E. Salter — is not expected to render a decision quickly, and it is not likely to be the last word: Most legal experts predict the case ultimately will be decided by the Florida Supreme Court.
A central question before the appeals court is whether the state has a ”rational basis” to declare all gay men and women ineligible to adopt. Lawyers for both Gill and the two boys argue the state can effectively screen for mental illness, substance abuse or other risks to children — as it does with all other prospective adoptive parents.
In his questioning of Osterhaus, Shepherd asked whether DCF had a means to determine whether prospective adoptive parents are susceptible to mental illness, drug abuse or domestic violence — or whether such risks were ”unascertainable.”
”If these conditions can be examined,” Shepherd said, ”the statute fails.”
Cope noted that lawmakers chose not to forbid drug addicts, child molesters or even murderers from adopting, but explicitly banned only gay people. ”This is the only absolute disqualifier, as far as I can tell,” Cope said. ”How can that be justified?”
And for all their sanctimony about wanting children to be raised by the likes of Ozzie and Harriet, the “family values” crowd don’t seem to actually care about the children being raised by Martin Gill, who has been a foster parent to two boys for four years. These kids have been raised in a loving and caring home and now they want to yank them out and put them back into the hands of the state. But wait; aren’t these the same people who are always carrying on about how government can’t do anything right? So they’re saying it’s better to hand these kids over to DCF and their bureaucracy rather then let a gay man adopt them? Wow, it takes an awful lot of fear and loathing to be that cruel to children.