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MIAMI (BP)--A Florida state judge has declared unconstitutional a 31-year-old Florida law banning homosexuals from adopting children in a ruling that the Attorney General's office has given notice it will appeal.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman ruled the law violates equal protection rights of homosexuals under Florida's constitution. In the 53-page ruling, Lederman also found the law banning homosexual adoptions "defeats a child's right to permanency as provided by federal and state law."
The Nov. 25 decision authorizes Martin Gill, a 47-year-old flight attendant from Miami, to adopt 4- and 8-year-old siblings for whom he has been offering foster care for almost four years.
Pro-family leaders discounted the significance of the case and predicted the ruling would be overturned on appeal.
"In the short term, this ruling by an activist judge is a tempest in a teapot. In the long-term it will be overturned on appeal," said Mat Staver, founder of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel.
John Stemberger, an Orlando attorney who leads the Florida Family Policy Counsel, said the ruling was an example of "classic judicial activism" and illustrates the importance of the Election Day approval of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment placing the traditional definition of marriage in the state constitution.
"Everywhere in the law where children are affected, the standard must always be what is in the best interest of the child," said Stemberger, who led the effort to pass the marriage amendment in Florida. "What is stunning to me is that when it comes to dealing with gays, that standard goes out the window."
Stemberger added, "The studies are clear that children always do better with a married mother and a father. There are an enormous number of married couples trying to adopt. Some are even going overseas to adopt, and these children can easily be placed in families with a mom and a dad."
Lederman, however, rejected evidence presented during the trial finding homosexual parenting is harmful to children.
Noting previous federal and state rulings upholding Florida's ban on adoptions by homosexuals, Lederman found the constitutionality of the ban is now "again ripe for consideration" because of recent "developments in the fields of social science, psychology, human sexuality, social work and medicine, the existence of additional studies, the re-analysis and peer review of prior studies, the endorsements by the major psychological, psychiatry, child welfare and social work associations, and the now, consensus based on widely accepted results of respected studies by qualified experts."
In the decision, Lederman harshly criticized the two experts put forward by the state of Florida, calling into question the validity of their conclusions, in part because of their religious views.
Lederman noted that George Rekers, a clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist from Miami who testified on behalf of the state, "is also an ordained Baptist minister" and asserted that Rekers' "testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers' beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy." Lederman quoted lengthy sections from Rekers' published writings in which he asserted religious convictions about homosexuality.
Lederman also found that Walter Schumm, associate professor of family studies at Kansas State University, "integrates his religious and ideological beliefs into his research," citing several of his writings, including one with Rekers, in which a theological argument against homosexuality is offered.
Schumm, unlike Rekers, testified against the homosexual adoption ban, arguing instead that adoptions should be awarded by judicial decision on a case-by-case basis.
Staver said Lederman "lawlessly disregarded" legal precedents, including decisions by the state courts of appeal upholding the law banning adoptions by homosexuals.
"[O]nly a handful of states actually permit homosexual adoption," Staver noted, with most states banning it through legislation, regulation or court precedent because the "best interest of children is served by placing them in homes with a mom and dad or where there is a likelihood of a mom and a dad."
James A. Smith is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, where this story first appeared, online at FloridaBaptistWitness.com.