Florida joined Illinois and the rest of the United States yesterday when the Third District Court affirmed a lower court decision regarding adoption by homosexuals. The court held 3 to 0 that the law banning homosexuals from adopting is unconstitutional. The case is interesting not only because it touches on social norms and hot-button issues, but also because it is a great example of a constitutional argument.
The outcome is not quite written in stone yet. The governor of Florida announced Wednesday afternoon that he would no longer enforce the law, but the appellate decision will only stand if the state's Department of Children and Families does not appeal to the Supreme Court.
The adoption that sparked the case started as a foster parenting arrangement. The two boys, aged 4 and 4 months, arrived at the home of F.G., a licensed foster caregiver, following allegations of their biological parents' abandonment and neglect. F.G. was (and is) gay. The children did well under his care, and he applied to adopt them after the Department had succeeded in terminating the parental rights of their natural parents.
F.G. passed the evaluation with flying colors. He provided a safe, healthy, stable and nurturing home that would meet the boys' emotional, physical, educational and social needs. Still, the organization conducting the evaluation recommended against the adoption. Under Florida law, F.G. was prohibited from adopting because he is gay.
F.G. fought back. He filed suit in 2007, arguing that the statute violated his constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and privacy. The boys, through independent counsel, joined the suit, also claiming that the Department's denial of F.G.'s petition violated their rights to equal protection and due process.
In October of 2008, the case went to trial. Over four days of testimony, fact witnesses and expert witnesses took the stand. The trial court found for F.G., holding in its 53-page judgment that the statute was unconstitutional. The court also granted F.G.'s petition for adoption.
In our next post, we'll discuss the court's reasoning and some reactions to the decision.
Florida Third District Court of Appeals Florida Department of Children and Families v. In re: Matter of Adoption of X.X.G. and N.R.G. 9/22/10