- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

A federal judge in Miami yesterday upheld Florida's ban on homosexuals adopting children, saying that the state has a "legitimate purpose" in placing children with husband-and-wife couples.
However, U.S. District Judge James L. King rejected arguments by the state that moral disapproval of homosexuality would justify the law. Instead, he said the state had made a credible case that homosexual parents are not in the "best interest of the child."
"At the least, it is arguable that placing children in married homes is in the best interest of Florida's children," said Judge King in his ruling.
But, he wrote, "the court cannot accept that moral disapproval of homosexuals or homosexuality serves a legitimate state interest."
The 1977 Florida law is unique nationwide in specifically prohibiting adoptions by homosexual individuals or couples. Mississippi, Arkansas and Utah are the only other states with laws that directly or indirectly discourage homosexuals from becoming foster or adoptive parents.
Yesterday's ruling drew praise from social conservatives who oppose adoptions by homosexuals.
"The main problem with homosexual adoption is that it trivializes the unique and important role that both mothers and fathers play in raising children," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council.
"Homosexuals are attempting to redefine the family and what constitutes marriage," said the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition.
Homosexual homes are "not the kind of environment that children should be raised in," he said, adding that new evidence shows that children raised by homosexuals tend to struggle more with their sexual identities than children raised by heterosexuals.
Lisa Bennett, spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual-advocacy group, said the Florida ruling was "tragic" and would "leave children without the loving parents and the secure homes they need."
"To take a loss in an important case when you think you're right is always a tough thing," said Matt Coles, director of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit.
The case will likely be appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Mr. Coles said.
The 1999 lawsuit challenging Florida's ban on homosexual adoption was initially brought by seven adults and an organization representing two children who are being raised by homosexuals.
Some of the complaints were dismissed, leaving adult plaintiffs Steven Lofton, Douglas E. Houghton Jr., Wayne Larue Smith and Daniel Skaheen, who are all homosexual, and the two children.
Mr. Lofton is a registered nurse who has been raising several Florida foster children who are HIV-positive. He now lives in Oregon with the children and his male partner. He sued to adopt a 10-year-old boy.
Mr. Houghton, a clinical nurse specialist who lives in Miami, sued to adopt the 9-year-old boy he has been the legal guardian of for several years.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Skaheen, both of Key West, Fla., sued the state to allow them to be considered as prospective adoptive parents.
The lawsuit, which named the state and its Department of Children and Families as defendants, claimed that Florida's adoption law violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights of privacy and equal protection.
However, Judge King said in his ruling that, "given there is no fundamental right to adopt or be adopted, there can be no fundamental right to apply for adoption."
The judge said that while Mr. Lofton and Mr. Houghton had developed strong emotional bonds with the children they wanted to adopt, the existence of those bonds didn't "inherently grant them a fundamental right to family privacy, intimate association and family integrity."
Judge King further noted that the plaintiffs did not try to demonstrate that homosexual families are "equivalently stable, are able to provide proper gender identification or are no more socially stigmatizing than married heterosexual families."
In the end, Judge King agreed with the state that it was in a child's best interest to be raised in a home with a married mother and father, and that it was within the state's purview to make such a judgment.
The court finds that "categorically barring homosexuals from adoption in the best interest of Florida's children is, on its face, a legitimate purpose," he wrote.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's office issued a statement that said, "We agree with the ruling upholding the law that was passed by the Legislature."
Florida's ban on homosexual adoptions was enacted around the time in the late 1970s that singer Anita Bryant launched a crusade against a Dade County, Fla., ordinance on homosexual rights.


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