Friday, January 22, 2010

Foster Father Braces: Ruling May Overturn Gay-Adoption Ban or Take Kids Away

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Sometimes Martin Gill forgets what day it is. And then he starts to feel stressed and anxious and realizes, Oh, this must be Wednesday.

Wednesday, between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m., is when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Miami releases its rulings on its Web site.

Any Wednesday now, the Court of Appeals will release its ruling on whether Florida's ban on gay adoption is constitutional. Any Wednesday now, Gill will learn whether he gets to keep the two foster children he and his partner have been raising for the past five years, and want to adopt.

"I'm confident we will win, but not so confident that I'm not nervous on those Wednesday mornings," said Gill, 48, a flight attendant who lives in North Miami.

The ACLU of Florida, which is representing Gill in the case, has made the elimination of the adoption ban passed by the Florida Legislature in 1977 a priority. Today Gill will speak at a town-hall meeting sponsored by the ACLU to build public support for ending the prohibition on gay adoption.

Florida is the only state that outright bans adoptions by gay people, although it allows gays and lesbians to be foster parents.

In November 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman ruled that the law was unconstitutional after Gill and his partner applied to adopt the two boys who are now 4 and 9. The Florida Attorney General's Office, on behalf of the state Department of Children and Families, appealed the ruling.

"For the first time in the 30 years of the ban, a court had heard all the scientific evidence on how kids do when they are raised in gay families, and came to the conclusion that there's no rational basis to believe that kids do better with straight families than gay people," said Robert Rosenwald, Gill's ACLU attorney. "The appeals court should uphold the Lederman decision because it is based on evidence, scientific evidence that is largely undisputed by the state."

Mathew Staver, whose Maitland-based Liberty Counsel filed a brief in support of the state, said the appeals court should uphold the adoption ban.

"To permit same-sex adoption is essentially a policy that says children don't need mothers or fathers," said Staver, whose organization opposes gay rights.

DCF workers testified that Gill and his partner were exemplary foster parents and, if not for the ban, they would be recommended for adoption. They said the boys had bonded with Gil and his partner, a railroad employee. The boys call Gill "Poppy" and their other father "Daddy."

Whatever the appeals court rules, its decision is likely to end up with the Florida Supreme Court. The ACLU is prepared for a long fight. The civil-liberties organization has a three-year $240,000 grant to build public support to end the 32-year-old gay-adoption ban, anticipating that the issue may ultimately be decided by public opinion, the Legislature or Florida voters.

Gill thinks there is support among Floridians for gay adoption in a way there wasn't for same-sex marriage.

"We are not asking that every gay person be able to adopt. We are only asking to be included in the people being screened to adopt," Gill said.

During the appeals hearing, the Attorney General's lawyer told the judges that if they uphold the adoption ban, the boys would be removed from Gill's home and placed with another foster family where they would be eligible for adoption. It was the first Gill heard that if he loses the case, he loses his children.

After five months, Gill has learned not to get his hopes too high in a case where the stakes couldn't be higher. Win and he may get to keep his children forever. Lose and they could be gone in an instant.

"They are aware we are fighting for their adoption. We are trying to take them out of foster care and make them part of our forever family," he said. "I never allow them to know they might be taken away."

1 comment:

Dentists Roseville said...

It is difficult to comment on such a sensitive issue. I do hope though that whatever ruling is passed will be for the benefit of everyone.