The announcement last week that
conservatives had mounted a lawsuit against the Florida Bar to keep
it from arguing in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to adopt in
Florida is the latest evidence that adoption is likely to become the
next gay rights battle.
Several events nationwide are pushing
the adoption issue to the front burner of gay rights, but Florida
remains at the epicenter of the debate.
Late last year, a Miami-Dade circuit
judge was the latest to disagree with Florida's 30-year-old ban on
gay adoption, enacted during the infamous Anita Bryant anti-gay
crusades of the 70s.
Judge Cindy Lederman's order allows
Frank Gill, 47, and his partner to legally adopt the 4- and
8-year-old half brothers they have raised since 2004.
Lederman's 53-page ruling found the law
to be unconstitutional and to have “no rational basis.”
The Florida Bar of Governors approved
filing a “friend of the court” brief on January 30 supporting
Lederman's ruling when the state appealed to the Third District
In an unusual move, lawyers for the
conservative Liberty Counsel filed a petition in the Florida Supreme
Court, saying the Bar is not free to file a brief in such cases.
Lawyers for Liberty Counsel argue the
brief violates the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment demands that The
Florida Bar remain neutral on matters that do not relate to the
regulation of attorneys,” Matthew D. Staver, founder of Liberty
Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, said. “The
bar cannot force attorneys and judges to pay mandatory dues and then
position itself as an adversary against them on controversial
But just as the gay adoption ban in
Florida appears to be nearing its end-game as the Florida Supreme
Court enters the picture, new battlegrounds have emerged on the
Act 1, the ballot initiative that
prohibits unmarried gay and lesbian couples from adopting, was
approved by Arkansas voters on November 4. And lawmakers in Kentucky
and Tennessee say they will place a similar measure before voters, as
The gay adoption ban was backed by the
Family Council Action Committee (FCAC), the same Little Rock-based
organization largely responsible for passage of a constitutional ban
against gay marriage in Arkansas in 2004. The FCAC is partially
funded by James Dobson's conservative ministry Focus on the Family
While the law affects
both gay and straight couples, it disproportionately impacts gay
couples who cannot legally marry in the state. During the campaign,
the FCAC freely admitted that they were targeting gay couples.
On its website, the FCAC listed three
primary reasons for the law: For the safety of children, to increase
the number of prospective homes, and to “blunt a homosexual
The Arkansas chapter of the ACLU made a
court appearance on Monday to defend a lawsuit it has filed on behalf
of families harmed by the law. Arkansas attorney General Dustin
McDaniel asked a circuit court in January to dismiss the challenge.
Florida is the only state to have
successfully outlawed adoption by gay men and lesbians, but the list
of states prohibiting unmarried couples from adoption is growing.
Mississippi and Alabama were the first to pass such laws. And now
Kentucky and Tennessee say they will join their ranks.
Both states have modeled their
proposals after Arkansas' ban: Outlaw unmarried couples from adoption
knowing full well that gay and lesbian couples cannot marry in their
The Tennessee lawmakers who have
introduced the bills – Rep. John J. DeBerry Jr. (D-Memphis) and
Senator Paul Stanley (R-Memphis) – say they will not discuss their
reasons for sponsoring the bills.
“If a member of the public would like
to know my reasons, they can contact me, come into my office,”
DeBerry told The Tennessean. “We will shut the door, and I
would be happy to share my reasons.”
Kentucky lawmakers, however, are a bit
“The bill is necessary for the
welfare of our children,” Senator Gary Tapp, a Republican from
Shelbyville, who is sponsoring SB68, told the Louisville-based
Courier-Journal. “It's a proven fact that children are
better off raised in a safe, loving environment.”
The bill is supported by The Family
Foundation of Kentucky, which says the bill does not target gay
couples. But a widely-reported statement put out by the group says
opponents are “throwing children under the bus on the road to gay
By rejecting unmarried couples as
eligible adopters, while denying gay couples the right to marry,
lawmakers have inextricably linked the rights of marriage and
adoption. Gay activists having staked out gay marriage as a civil
right must now counter anti-gay foes on the question of adoption
rights as well.