Last edited: February 01, 2004

Gay Men Lose Challenge to Florida Gay Adoption Ban

Associated Press, January 28, 2004

By Catherine Wilson

MIAMI—Four gay men lost a federal challenge Wednesday to the only blanket state law banning homosexuals from adopting children.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the men, who are foster parents seeking to adopt children in their care despite the 1977 Florida law passed in the heyday of Anita Bryant’s anti-homosexual campaign.

“Obviously we’re crushed,” said Paul Cates with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

Florida is the only state in the nation with a complete ban on adoption by gays, whether married or single. The law has withstood several challenges in state court.

The three-judge panel in Atlanta said the issue was properly before the Legislature rather than the appeals court.

“We exercise great caution when asked to take sides in an ongoing public policy debate,” Judge Stanley Birch wrote in a unanimous decision. “Any argument that the Florida Legislature was misguided in its decision is one of legislative policy, not constitutional law.”

Mathew Staver, president of the conservative civil liberties legal group Liberty Counsel, hailed the decision and the court’s approach to the issue.

“In this age of judicial activism, it is refreshing to see a court assume its proper role and allow the people to set family policy,” he said.

An after-hours call to the attorney hired to argue the state’s case in federal court was not immediately returned.

Florida argued the state has a right to legislate its “moral disapproval of homosexuality” and its belief that children need married parents for healthy development.

The decision comes as states react to court rulings favoring gay marriage and a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June striking down laws criminalizing gay sex.

“We think the court is wrong in thinking that the constitution lets the government assume that sexual orientation has anything to do with good parenting,” the ACLU’s Cates said.

Greg Nevins, a staff attorney with the Lambda Legal Defense, a gay legal rights group, called the decision “a grave disappointment” and accused the court of abdicating its responsibility to strike down a discriminatory law.

The ACLU expects to take at least a week before deciding how to proceed. It could ask the full court to consider the issue.

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