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Florida Continues To Discriminate Against Lesbian & Gay Families

Having grown up in Miami, I find myself still inexorably linked to the Sunshine State. In fact, even though I have lived in Los Angeles now for a quarter of a century, I still consider Miami home. I remain a diehard Dolphin fan and will forever be a Cane. (Since the Miami Heat were not in existence when I left for Los Angeles, my allegiance to the Lakers does not make me a bandwagon fan.) Even the Bush-Gore election debacle did little to effect my nostalgic attachment to Florida.

However, this blog entry by Professor Julie Shapiro reminds me of the unconscionable harm caused by Anita Bryant back in the 1970s. Just barely a teenager, I still have a very vivid recollection of Anita Bryant’s campaign to have Florida enact a law that preventing lesbians and gay men from becoming adoptive parents. Thirty-three years later that stain from her efforts still exists – though hopefully for not much longer:

What is unusual about Florida’s statute is that it is explicitly aimed at all lesbian and gay people. More recent (and more common) statutes bar all unmarried couples from adopting. While this has the effect of eliminating all lesbian and gay couples (because the state’s with this restriction do not recognize marriages between two women or two men), individual lesbians and gay men may still be permitted to adopt. These laws also apply equally to unmarried different sex couples. As such, the discrimination wrought by these statutes is a bit different. (Some of these statutes have been successfully challenged in court.) (Here’s a recent map that gives all the basic info on restrictive adoption laws.)

Anyway, Florida has these restrictive adoption laws–and those laws played a role in the story that was the subject of yesterday’s post. Faced with fertility problems and the inability to adopt in Florida, Gigi Fernandez and Jane Geddes began adoption proceedings in California. As it happens, these didn’t work out either, but that’s not the point I’d emphasize just now. Instead, I want to consider what this tells us about the efficacy of Florida’s restrictive laws.

Here’s another story that tells a similar tale and makes the point more clearly. Charles Perez was an ABC news anchor in New York and Miami. He and his husband, Keith Rinehart married in Connecticut. They wanted to be parents. When Perez called a Miami adoption agency to begin the process the first question he was asked was “Are you gay?” That was the end of any chance to adopt children in Florida, of course, but after consultation Perez and Rinehart continued down the adoption path. They had a Florida-approved agency complete a home-study. Though the home study was totally positive, they were still barred from adoption in-state. And so they travelled. Eventually they adopted a child their daughter in Kansas.

Eventually Perez and Rinehart will be able to take their daughter home to Florida. Ultimately Florida must respect adoptions completed in other states. (We’ve the Full Faith and Credit Clause to thank for that.) But it can take a while for adoptions to be finalized–six months to a year is typical. And until then, Perez and Rinehart and their daughter live in Kansas.

What this story, together with the one from yesterday, demonstrate is that the ban on lesbian and gay adoption in Florida isn’t fully effective. People can work around it. But not all lesbians and gay men, whether single or coupled, can afford to travel the US pursuing adoptions in more hospitable states. And many cannot afford to simply up and move for the sixth months to a year required for completing the proceedings in some other state.

Perez makes just this point in his essay. There are lesbian and gay men in Florida who are willing and able to adopt–except they don’t have the money to work around the Florida system. I’m not sure I’d find this acceptable even if all the kids available for adoption in Florida were quickly placed into satisfactory homes. Allocating children based on parental wealth seems a bit problematic to me. But of course, there aren’t enough homes for all the kids available for adoption in Florida. It’s really time to move away from Anita Bryant’s legacy.

There never was a justification for this law and Florida ought to be ashamed to have allowed such a blatantly discriminatory statute on their books. Recent research has indicated that there is no difference in children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexual parents. The time has come for this law to be struck.


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