Last edited: March 29, 2004

A Bias That Hurts Children

St. Petersburg Times, February 8, 2004
P. O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731
Fax: 727-893-8675

More than 3,000 children in Florida linger on the foster care rolls because not enough permanent adoptive homes can be found. Even so, the state Legislature refuses to repeal a law that prohibits gays and lesbians from adopting children.

Opponents of gay adoption recently won another legal victory. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday the state had the power to single out gays as inherently unfit to adopt, even in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing the right of homosexuals to be treated with dignity under the law.

Writing for the court, Judge Stanley Birch said that the state “has a legitimate interest in encouraging (an) optimal family structure by seeking to place adoptive children in homes that have both a mother and father.”

That may seem to make sense in theory, but in practice there are nowhere near enough heterosexual married couples willing to adopt foster children, many of whom have troubled backgrounds. To address this shortage, Florida allows single people to adopt—far from the ideal.

The 1977 law, passed during the heyday of Anita Bryant’s antigay tear, has remained on the books despite the cultural progression society has made in accepting gay families. Social science has come to the conclusion that gay parents can and do provide nurturing environments for children to grow up healthy and happy. Statistics demonstrate that children raised by homosexual parents are no more likely to be homosexual than those raised by heterosexual parents.

Still, the state clings to a lingering prejudice that categorically denies gays and lesbians the chance to give their love and resources to a child in need. Reformed drug addicts can be considered as adoptive parents, as can burglars, shoplifters and embezzlers, but not homosexuals.

The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of six plaintiffs, including Steven Lofton, a pediatric nurse. Lofton has raised three Florida foster children since they were babies, all of whom came to him HIV positive. According to the court, “Lofton’s efforts in caring for these children have been exemplary.”

Douglas Houghton, Jr., another plaintiff, is a clinical nurse specialist and was made legal guardian of a boy who was abandoned by his biological father. But the gay adoption law has stood in the way of these families being formally recognized, which means the children do not have the rights and protections that flow from parent to child. Without question this law hurts the children as much as the adults.

Florida allows homosexuals to be foster parents and legal guardians, and recognizes the legitimacy of adoptions to gay parents formalized in other states. These facts thoroughly undermine the state’s claim that placing children in homosexual households is unacceptable.

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