A Monroe County Circuit Court judge has ruled Florida's ban on adoption by gay people is unconstitutional. The order allows an openly gay Key West foster parent to adopt a 13-year-old boy with learning disabilities and special needs he has raised since 2001.
Circuit Judge David J. Audlin Jr declared the adoption to be in the child's best interest and said the Florida law forbidding gay people from adopting children is "contrary to the state Constitution because it singles out a group for punishment." He also said the law violates the Constitution's separation of powers by preventing family court and child welfare judges from deciding case-by-case what is best for a child. The judge writes in the ruling that:
Contrary to every child welfare principle, the gay adoption ban operates as a conclusive or irrebuttable presumption that . . . it is never in the best interest of any adoptee to be adopted by a homosexual.
Florida is the only state in the US with a complete statutory ban on gay people adopting. The 31 year old law does not stop gay people from fostering children. In fact, gays and lesbians foster children in large numbers in Florida, many times taking in children with special needs or medical issues.
Florida's gay adoption ban has been upheld repeatedly by state and federal appeals courts, so this order will not change the state-wide law. It simply means this one man can adopt this child because the court has deemed it in the child's best interest.
The Florida Attorney General has chosen not to get involved in the case thus far. According to the Miami-Herald:
Sandi Copes, press secretary for Attorney General Bill McCollum, declined to discuss the Key West ruling. McCollum's office chose not to become involved in the case because the teen was no longer in DCF's custody, Copes said.
The attorney general still can appeal the order.
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, applauded the decision, saying:
Child welfare policy has been held hostage by politics. You won't find a child welfare professional or organization that does not believe judges ought to be able to make individual determinations as to who would be good adoptive parents and who would not.
I think the 13 year-old says it best in his quote from the order:
The boy testified he wanted the man to be his ''forever father'' -- like all the other kids had -- ''because I love him."
It is long past time for this discriminatory ban to come to an end. Not allowing judges and child welfare experts to determine what is in the best interest of the child based simply on bigotry is wrong. This is but a small step to ending what has is a disgraceful mark on Florida.