Lawmaker Group Boosts Gay Adoption Ban
[MIAMI, FL] - The toughest anti-gay adoption law in the United States got a boost of support from 21 Florida state legislators on Monday.
The 21 conservative and mostly Republican legislators filed a friend-of-the-court brief in federal court in favor of the law. The brief could help judges with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ( news - web sites) in Atlanta decide if Florida's prohibition on gay adoptions is legal.
A Miami judge threw out a challenge to the law by the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) last August.
"The state really struggled to find any kind of support," said Eric Ferrero, a spokesperson for the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "They were supposed to file a response to our appeal in mid-March, but they only filed one two weeks ago. That's because they spent months and months trying to get legislators to sign off on this brief."
None of the legislators who signed the brief returned phone calls from the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network. Groups like Tampa-based Equality Florida, which is fighting to educate people about the ban, consider what they call "a small number of people" who signed the brief a good sign.
"There was a real intense campaign to get these legislators to show their support of the ban," said Equality Florida's executive director, Nadine Smith. "When you consider there are 160 legislators, in many ways seeing just these 21 is a relief."
The law was passed back in 1977 at the height of Anita Bryant's anti-gay protests in Florida. The bill's sponsor at the time told a local newspaper the bill was meant to tell gay and lesbians, "(W)e are really tired of you. We wish you'd go back in the closet."
Florida is just one of two states in the country with explicit anti-gay adoption laws on the books. But while Mississippi bans gay couples from adopting, Florida forbids gay adoptions regardless of the applicant's relationship status.
The ACLU filed this current challenge to Florida's law on behalf of four gay men who are all long-time foster parents or guardians of children they would like to adopt, but can't legally. According to state records, there are currently over 3,400 children waiting for adoption in Florida's foster care system.
"There are many loving gay and lesbian people who would love to give these kids a good home," said Smith. "It's sad to see a group of right-wing legislators try to curry political favors with an anti-gay constituency over the welfare of Florida's children."