There is no rational reason to prohibit all homosexuals from adopting children, a Florida appeals court said Wednesday in a ruling that upheld a gay man's adoption of two young boys.
Florida is the only remaining U.S. state to expressly ban adoption by gay men and women without exception, the ruling noted.
A lower court found in 2008 that the ban violated the state constitution's guarantee of equal treatment. It allowed the plaintiff, a gay man named Frank Martin Gill, to adopt two boys -- half-brothers he had been raising as foster children since 2004.
The Florida Department of Children and Families said the lower court erred and the adoption was illegal under the state's 33-year-old ban on adoption by gays.
But the state's Third District Court of Appeal in Miami Wednesday upheld the lower court's finding that "there is no rational basis for the statute."
The children were removed from their home because of abuse and neglect when one was 4 years old and the other 4 months old, and their parents' rights to the boys were terminated by a court.
When they were placed with Gill, the older boy did not speak, the younger one had an untreated ear infection. Both had ringworm and other medical problems, the court documents said.
'EQUALLY GOOD PARENTS'
Both sides in the case, including state officials, agreed that the children were thriving in the care of Gill and his male partner. The parties in the case also agreed "that gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents," the appellate ruling noted.
"Given a total ban on adoption by homosexual persons, one might expect that this reflected a legislative judgment that homosexual persons are, as a group, unfit to be parents," the opinion states. "No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument."
During the original trial, psychologists, social workers, family experts and a clergyman gave conflicting testimony about the development of children raised by gays.
The court found such children were no more likely to be homosexuals themselves, engage in early sexual experimentation, suffer mental illness or domestic violence, or abuse drugs than children raised by heterosexuals.
The Department of Children and Families argued that children would have better role models and face less discrimination if they were placed in non-homosexual households, preferably with a husband and wife as the parents.
But the court said the statute did not accomplish that goal since it allows single people to adopt and it allows gays to serve as foster parents.
"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 court said.
Florida also allows people with criminal histories or histories of substance abuse to be considered as adoptive parents on a case-by-case basis, the ruling noted.
The case is No. 3D08-3044, Florida Department of Children and Families versus In re: Matter of Adoption of X.X.G. and N.R.G.
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.