Last edited: January 03, 2005

Court Hears Florida Gay Adoption Ban Case

Washington 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 homes.

“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.”

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 orientation.

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 homosexual intercourse.

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