Court Hears Florida Gay Adoption Ban Case
Post, March 4, 2003
By Catherine Wilson
A federal appeals court had tough questions for both
sides Tuesday on the constitutionality, morality and rationality of
Florida’s ban on gay adoptions, the only law of its kind in the nation.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the advocacy group
Children First say the 1977 law pushed by anti-gay rights activist Anita
Bryant should be thrown out because it bans the state from considering gays as
prospective adoptive parents.
The state child welfare agency allows homosexuals to be
foster parents and permanent legal guardians. The lawsuit, filed by five gay
men who have been taking care of foster children for years, has reached the
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Attorney Casey Walker, arguing for the state before a
three-judge panel, said Florida’s priority is adoption by married couples to
encourage a stable home environment and promote heterosexual role models.
“It has to be contrasted with not having any kind of
stable relationship at all,” Judge Stanley Birch responded. “The
rationality of it, other than some kind of moral affirmation, is kind of hard
for me to grasp.”
Judge Proctor Hug noted the 3,400 children eligible for
adoption in a state where there aren’t enough foster parents and adoptive
“There’s a shortage. Why isn’t that something we
would consider when evaluating the rationality of the law?” he asked.
Walker responded that the lawsuit challenging the law was
not a class action. Hug shot back, “But it’s also on behalf of the
Children First attorney Christina Zawisza argued the
state doesn’t believe its own pro-family claims because 40 percent of its
child placements are in single-parent homes.
Judge Ed Carnes said he was concerned that overturning
the ban on gay adoptions might affect the state’s right to exclude any group
of people from adoptions, such as convicted felons.
He also cited a state court precedent upholding a ban on
adoption by sexually active unmarried couples without reference to sexual
ACLU attorney Matt Coles said the state applies that
restriction only to homosexuals.
Coles said he didn’t expect a decision until after the
Supreme Court rules by June on a challenge to a Texas sodomy law criminalizing
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