National Center for Youth Law


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Florida’s Gay Adoption Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

A Miami appeals court unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that Florida’s 33-year-old ban on gay adoptions is unconstitutional. The Sept. 22 decision by the Third District Court of Appeals in Miami has cleared the way for Martin Gill to adopt two half-brothers he had been caring for as a foster parent for two years.  While Florida law allowed gays and lesbians to be foster parents, it did not permit them to adopt. The appellate decision only applies to those counties under its jurisdiction, which are Miami-Dade and Monroe.

The state Department of Children & Families issued a public statement that they will not appeal the decision to the state’s highest court.

“We have weighed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court to achieve an ultimate certainty and finality for all parties. But the depth, clarity and unanimity of the DCA (District Court of Appeals) opinion – and that of the Miami-Dade Judge Cindy Lederman’s original (2008) Circuit Court decision – has made it evident that an appeal would have a less than limited chance of a different outcome,” the statement said. “We have created and implemented new application forms that drop the question about sexual orientation from adoption proceedings.”

NCYL joined the case as amicus curiae in June 2009, along with children’s advocates from across the country. Amici argued that the Florida law banning lesbians and gays from adopting harms children by denying them the opportunity to have a permanent home.  The law was especially harmful to Florida’s 3,500 foster children because it denies them the opportunity to find parents who could provide them with a loving, stable home.

Counsel in the case were Elizabeth L. Mitchell, Benjamin Brown, and Katherine Halliday of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; Lauri Waldman Ross and Theresa L. Girten of Ross & Girten; and Joan Heifetz Hollinger, a lecturer in residence at Berkeley Law.