Florida Overturns Ban on Gay Adoption
A Florida Circuit Court has ruled that homosexuals can now legally adopt children in the state of Florida. (Thanks to How Appealing for the story). Florida was the only remaining state in America that banned people from being adoptive parents based solely on their sexual orientation. The court’s historic decision overturned the law on state equal protection and substantive due process grounds.
A Florida couple sought to adopt two foster care children that had been in their foster care for four years. Even though adoption officials unanimously agreed they were qualified and excellent parents, state law compelled them to decline their application because they were gay. (The particularly alarming facts concerning the children’s prior neglect can be found in the opinion here.)
The couple challenged the law prohibiting their adoption as unconstitutional. They claimed it violated fundamental rights guaranteed to children by Florida law and state equal protection guarantees. The court agreed.
The court recognized that Florida guarantees children permanency in an adoptive home. Uprooting children from foster care parents seeking full adoption can only be done for the best interests of the children. In this instance, denying qualified, loving foster care parents seeking full adoption-for no reason other than their sexual orientation-was not narrowly tailored to serving the best interests of the children. (As opposed to, say, discovering that the foster care parents are actually convicted felons.)
Florida’s ban also lost on equal protection grounds. According to government attorneys, Florida prohibited homosexual adoption to promote the well being of children, lessen the stigmatization of children raised by gay parents, and to uphold society’s “moral interests.” The court made significant findings of fact that none of the government’s stated interests were furthered by banning homosexuals from being adoptive parents. The court furthermore held that legislating moral interests-absent some other legislative purpose-was outside the province of government regulation. (I suspect only the hardcore legal philosophers among you will find this at all controversial.)
The decision is significant for a variety of reasons. First, this comes on the heels of Florida’s recent gay marriage ban. Second, child rearing and the importance of having a “traditional family” is often one of the arguments advanced by those who seek to limit gay marriage. A holding that government discrimination against homosexual parents cannot even pass a rational basis analysis severely undercuts arguments advanced by anti-gay marriage advocates regarding the importance of maintaining the “sanctity of marriage.” On the whole, even though Florida was the sole remaining state prohibiting adoption based solely on sexual orientation, the decision is definitely a positive development in advancing the rights of gays and lesbians in America.