A Florida state trial court judge ruled today that the law banning adoption by any "homosexual" is unconstitutional under that state's constitution. Judge Cindy Lederman ruled that the provision violated the state equal protection clause, as well as the state and federal law right of children in state custody to permanence and stability in placement. The decision and other case documents are available here; decision is also on Westlaw at 2008 WL 5006172.
The trial focused intensively on competing social science evidence, and Judge Lederman analyzed the expert testimony in detail in her ruling. Based on that evidence, she concluded that sexual orientation has no impact on the ability to parent, and that there is no optimal gender mix of parents. The decision will allow a South Florida gay foster dad to adopt two half brothers who were placed with him in foster care four years ago.
The ruling provides a quick rebound to lgbt parenting advocates after the loss of a referendum in Arkansas three weeks ago, in which voters adopted a provision barring adoption by any unmarried person cohabiting with another person, widely seen as an attack on adoption by lgbt couples. The case was brought by the ACLU LGBT Rights Project; lead counsel Leslie Cooper is one of the nation's experts in this area.
Any appeal by the state will go through the state court system.
Following is an article about the case that appeared last week in the Miami Herald:
… In a trial peppered with words like ''null hypothesis,'' ''central limit theorem'' and ''Pearson correlation,'' a half-dozen experts in psychology, epidemiology, sociology and family studies presented starkly different views on whether gay men and women can be as good at parenting as straight people. The trial, which ran Oct. 1-6, was closed to the public, but The Miami Herald has obtained a transcript of the testimony.
Florida law bans gays from adopting. Valerie J. Martin, a Florida assistant attorney general who defended the statute, said same-sex couples are at far greater risk of many social ills, and “putting children who are already at risk into such a household would increase the stressors that these children already experience as a result of their placement in foster care.''
Countered Leslie Cooper, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represents the foster father: “We heard, over the course of this trial, heaps and heaps of scientific evidence about gay parents and gay people. There is absolutely no reasonable scientific dispute on the subject of whether children who are raised by gay parents are disadvantaged in any way.''
The judge's ruling will determine whether a 4-year-old boy and his 8-year-old brother can be adopted by Frank Gill, the North Miami foster parent who has raised the boys for four years, and his partner….
Most likely, the case will ultimately be decided by the Third District Court of Appeal or the Florida Supreme Court.
Who will be allowed to adopt in Florida is a question with significance not just for prospective parents. Only two states have a larger number of foster children waiting to be adopted, said Florida State University social-work professor Patricia Lager, who testified for Gill at the trial.
About 22,000 Florida children are in state care, and more than 4,000 foster children are eligible for adoption, according to the state Department of Children & Families.