A Victory for Equality: Florida Probhibition of Homosexuals to Adopt Overturned
On September 22nd, the Florida Third District Court of Appeals struck down the state law that prohibits homosexuals from adopting children. This ruling from the District Court of Appeals represents a huge step forward for gay rights and legal parity. The thirty-year-old adoption law outlined the eligibility of who can adopt and be adopted, and explicitly prohibits homosexuals from adopting. The Court overturned the Florida statute on the basis that it fails the rational basis test: a form of legal review that is less intensive than strict scrutiny used to determine if a law or statute has a rational basis, and if a law denies a class of persons equal protection under the law.
The Court stated “it is difficult to see any rational basis in utilizing homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on adoption by those same persons.” The Florida Department of Children and Families as well as both parties involved in the appeal agree that “that gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents.” And that “the qualities that make a particular applicant the optimal match for a particular child could exist in a heterosexual or gay person.” Instead, the Department of Children and Families assert that “there is a rational basis for the prohibition on homosexual adoption because children will have better role models, and face less discrimination, if they are placed in non-homosexual households, preferably with a husband and wife as the parents.” This is the same old song that has been sung by many self-proclaimed “family values” conservative think-tanks and non-profits for years, even though it has no basis in science. The Court goes on to cite a number of scientists whose research has proved that there is no basis–certainly no rational or scientific one–in the claims presented in this case defending the ban on homosexuals from adopting. The Court went on to summarize the findings of the various scientists, their research, and their testimony, and concluded that:
These reports and studies find that there are no differences in the parenting of homosexuals or the adjustment of their children. These conclusions have been accepted, adopted and ratified by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatry Association, the American Pediatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America and the National Association of Social Workers. As a result, based on the robust nature of the evidence available in the field, this Court is satisfied that the issue is so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise; the best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption.
The Court then went on to address several of the rebuttal witnesses brought by the Department of Children and Families, one of whom was a Dr. George A. Rekers, who testified that children should not be adopted by homosexuals because “homosexuals are less able to provide a stable home for children than heterosexuals.” Dr. Rekers offered support for his assertions by citing several studies which indicated “that homosexual adults have a higher lifetime prevalence of major depression, affective disorders, anxiety disorders and substance abuse” and thus are unfit to serve as adoptive parents, foster parents, or legal guardians. Dr. Reker’s testimony was then rebutted by Dr. Susan Cochran–testifying for the appellees–who cited several studies comparing the mental health of homosexuals and heterosexuals. The results of these studies found that “sexual orientation alone is not a proxy for psychiatric disorders, mental health conditions, substance abuse or smoking; members of every demographic group suffer from these conditions at rates not significantly higher than for homosexuals.” The Court cited Dr. Cochran’s testimony in rebuffing the claims of the Department of Children and Families, stating:
Dr. Cochran pointed out that if every demographic group with elevated rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and smoking were excluded from adopting, the only group eligible to adopt under this rationale would be Asian American men.
The Court continued to go through the various claims of the Department of Children and Families, and the “expert” testimony offered to support their indefensible position, revealing the logical flaws in their claims, testimony, and research, concluding that the Florida adoption law violates the equal protection clause of the Florida State Constitution.
This ruling by the Florida Court of Appeals only reaffirms the legal precedent set by the overturning of Proposition 8 in California, in which Judge Vaughn Walker cited the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as being violated by Prop 8. In Judge Walker’s decision he stated that “Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, as excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.” Judge Walker continued, declaring:
Many of the purported interests identified by proponents are nothing more than a fear or unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples. Those interests that are legitimate are unrelated to the classification drawn by Proposition 8. The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal…Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause because it does not treat them equally.
Because there is no rational justification to deny homosexuals the right to adopt or to marry, I cannot see how the various homophobic laws currently on the books of many states can stand against legal appeal. Any jurist with a conscience and who genuinely believes in upholding the Constitution of this country cannot support these kinds of laws, which exist only to deny rights to homosexuals based on the legally untenable position of moral disapprobation.