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Supreme Court lets stand Fla. ban on homosexual adoption

WASHINGTON (BP)–In a victory for pro-family groups, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Jan. 10 to hear a challenge to Florida’s ban on homosexual adoption.

Without comment, the high court refused to review what experts consider the nation’s toughest law against adoptions by homosexuals. While Florida, Mississippi and Utah all prohibit homosexual couples from adopting, Florida goes a step further by preventing homosexual singles from adopting.

Florida’s law was upheld in a 3-0 vote by a panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2004. Then, in July, the full circuit deadlocked at 6-6 on whether to reconsider its earlier decision. The tie vote resulted in the law being upheld, leaving the Supreme Court as the only option for the plaintiffs.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit, and Lambda Legal — a homosexual activist legal organization — filed a friend-of-the-court brief.

The case involved several homosexual couples who were seeking to adopt children they had raised as foster parents. They argued that the law violated their right to privacy and their right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. They also relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision that overturned state anti-sodomy laws.

Pro-family leaders praised the decision.

“Common sense and human history underscore the fact that children need a mother and a father,” Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver said in a statement. “Since the plaintiffs originally conceded that ‘barring homosexuals from adoption in the best interests of Florida’s children is on its face a legitimate purpose,’ the Supreme Court’s denial is consistent with the statements of the plaintiffs and will serve to support the law’s legitimate purpose of preserving the traditional model of the family.”

Liberty Counsel filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the state, defending the adoption law.

Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. wrote both decisions for the 11th Circuit. In his decision in January 2004, Birch asserted that the state had the right to make such an adoption law.

“[T]he state has a legitimate interest in encouraging this optimal family structure by seeking to place adoptive children in homes that have both a mother and father,” Birch wrote then. “Florida argues that its preference for adoptive marital families is based on the premise that the marital family structure is more stable than other household arrangements and that children benefit from the presence of both a father and mother in the home.

“Given that appellants have offered no competent evidence to the contrary, we find this premise to be one of those ‘unprovable assumptions’ that nevertheless can provide a legitimate basis for legislative action.”

Birch and the other two justices asserted that because adoption is a “statutory privilege” and not a right, the state can place limits that otherwise would be “constitutionally suspect in many other arenas.” For instance, they said, the state considers potential adopters’ mental and physical health, as well as income and housing. In addition, adopting parents sign an affidavit promising good moral character.

When the court reconsidered the ruling last July, Birch voted again to uphold the law, but he also took the unusual step to say he personally opposes the law, even though he believes it is constitutional.

“If I were a legislator, rather than a judge, I would vote in favor of considering otherwise eligible homosexuals for adoptive parenthood,” wrote Birth, who added that he would not “allow my personal views to conflict with my judicial duty.”

Judge Rosemary Barkett argued the law was unconstitutional and that homosexuals were singled out.

“There is no comparable bar in Florida’s adoption statute that applies to any other group,” she wrote. “Neither child molesters, drug addicts, nor domestic abusers are categorically barred by the statute from serving as adoptive parents.”

Lawyers for the state of Florida asserted that children need both a mother and a father.

“It is rational to believe that children need male and female influences to develop optimally, particularly in the areas of sexual and gender identity, and heterosexual role modeling,” Florida attorney Casey Walker argued in a legal brief, according to The Miami Herald.

The case is Lofton v. Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services.

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