JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Federal Judge James Lawrence King upheld Florida’s law prohibiting homosexuals from adopting children in a closely watched ruling handed down Aug. 30. The decision was met immediately with criticism from homosexual activists, as well as promises to appeal the ruling that seems destined to be considered ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judge’s ruling is heartening for those of us who are concerned with asserting biblical morality in our society. However, other aspects of the decision demonstrate how far our society has drifted from the Bible’s standards of right and wrong.
At issue in the case, Lofton, et. al. v. Kearney, et. al., is a 1977 Florida statute that prohibits homosexuals from adopting children. According to the Associated Press, the law was enacted in the wake of former beauty queen Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign to overturn Dade County’s ordinance banning discrimination against homosexuals. The Florida law is considered the strongest in the nation banning adoption by same-sex couples, with only Utah and Mississippi maintaining similar restrictions.
The Associated Press notes, “Florida officials have displayed little enthusiasm for the adoption ban. The Department of Children and Families, for example, takes no public position on the measure.” Meanwhile, Gov. Jeb Bush expressed support for the judge’s ruling.
Lawyers for the homosexuals were quick to denounce the ruling: “It is blatantly homophobic and there’s no other rational basis for it than that,” said Elizabeth Schwartz.
Would-be homosexual adoptive parents, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, argued that the law is unconstitutional as a violation of their 14th Amendment due process rights, as well as “fundamental rights of familial privacy, intimate association and family integrity.”
The state of Florida defended the statute arguing that the law serves two legitimate purposes. In his ruling, Judge King outlined those purposes as: (1) “It reflects the State’s moral disapproval of homosexuality consistent with the legislature’s right to legislate public morality” and (2) it “serves the best interest of Florida’s children. … A child’s best interest is to be raised in a home stabilized by marriage, in a family consisting of both a mother and father” (a copy of the decision may be found at www.flsd.uscourts.gov).
King, senior judge for the Miami-based U.S. Southern District of Florida, upheld the law on the basis of the state’s argument regarding serving the best interests of children. King noted that the state gives primary consideration to married couples and does not permit heterosexual unmarried couples living together “in a sexually cohabiting relationship” to adopt children.
“Given that there is no fundamental right to adopt or to be adopted, there can be no fundamental right to apply for adoption,” King ruled. “The Supreme Court has warned against expanding fundamental rights because once a fundamental right is identified, the matter is placed ‘outside the arena of public debate and legislative action.'”
Precisely correct! The people, through their elected representatives, have the right to determine the proper qualifications for those who would adopt children under the state’s care.
Unfortunately, there is danger lurking in the other half of the judge’s ruling. King rejected the notion that disapproval of homosexuality alone is a legitimate basis for the law.
“This Court finds that public morality alone is insufficient to justify the homosexual adoption provision,” he wrote. “Enacting a classification to express society’s disapproval of a group burdened by the law is precisely what the Equal Protection Clause does not allow. This is not to say that the government cannot legislate to achieve things that it believes is morally good. … It is to say that the government cannot merely justify singling out a group of citizens for disfavor simply because it morally disapproves of them. Thus, the Court cannot accept that moral disapproval of homosexuals or homosexuality serves a legitimate state interest.”
This argument is ridiculous and dangerous. It is a moral good to prefer heterosexual marriage as the ideal for society. Furthermore, every enactment of law by the legislature is a legislation of morality. Laws against murder, rape, child abuse, etc., express the disapproval of society of those who commit such actions. The apostle Paul notes in Romans 13 that government must reward those who do good and punish those who do evil.
While Florida Baptists can take comfort in the net effect of Judge King’s ruling — upholding the ban on adoptions by homosexuals — the decision is troubling for his unwillingness to see the right of the state to hold a moral position against homosexuality.
Smith is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness newsjournal.