Lesbian and Gay Families Working Around Florida’s Adoption Restrictions

Yesterday’s post touched, really just in passing, on Florida’s restrictive adoption laws.   As I’ve noted in the past, Florida law prohibits lesbians and gay men from adopting children.   This is a legacy from Anita Bryant’s campaign in the 1977.  As the posts I linked to note, the law is currently being challenged in Florida court.  It’s also become a bit of an issue in the current Florida gubernatorial campaign

What is unusual about Florida’s statute is that it is explicitly aimed at all lesbian and gay people.  More recent (and more common) statutes bar all unmarried couples from adopting.  While this has the effect of eliminating all lesbian and gay couples (because the state’s with this restriction do not recognize marriages between two women or two men), individual lesbians and gay men may still be permitted to adopt.   These laws also apply equally to unmarried different sex couples.   As such, the discrimination wrought by these statutes is a bit different.   (Some of these statutes have been successfully challenged in court.)  (Here’s a recent map that gives all the basic info on restrictive adoption laws.) 

Anyway, Florida has these restrictive adoption laws–and those laws played a role in the story that was the subject of yesterday’s post.   Faced with fertility problems and the inability to adopt in Florida, Gigi Fernandez and Jane Geddes began adoption proceedings in California.  As it happens, these didn’t work out either, but that’s not the point I’d emphasize just now.  Instead, I want to consider what this tells us about the efficacy of Florida’s restrictive laws. 

Here’s another story that tells a similar tale and makes the point more clearly.   Charles Perez was an ABC news anchor in New York and Miami.  He and his husband, Keith Rinehart married in Connecticut.  They wanted to be parents.   When Perez called a Miami adoption agency to begin the process the first question he was asked was “Are you gay?”    That was the end of any chance to adopt children in Florida, of course, but after consultation Perez and Rinehart continued down the adoption path.  They had a Florida-approved agency complete a home-study.  Though the home study was totally positive, they were still barred from adoption in-state.   And so they travelled.   Eventually they adopted a child their daughter in Kansas.   

Eventually Perez and Rinehart will be able to take their daughter home to Florida.  Ultimately Florida must respect adoptions completed in other states.   (We’ve the Full Faith and Credit Clause to thank for that.)   But it can take a while for adoptions to be finalized–six months to a year is typical.  And until then, Perez and Rinehart and their daughter live in Kansas. 

What this story, together with the one from yesterday, demonstrate is that the ban on lesbian and gay adoption in Florida isn’t fully effective.   People can work around it.   But not all lesbians and gay men, whether single or coupled, can afford to travel the US pursuing adoptions in more hospitable states.  And many cannot afford to simply up and move for the sixth months to a year required for completing the proceedings in some other state.  

Perez makes just this point in his essay.   There are lesbian and gay men in Florida who are willing and able to adopt–except they don’t have the money to work around the Florida system.   I’m not sure I’d find this acceptable even if all the kids available for adoption in Florida were quickly placed into satisfactory homes.    Allocating children based on parental wealth seems a bit problematic to me.   But of course, there aren’t enough homes for all the kids available for adoption in Florida.   It’s really time to move away from Anita Bryant’s legacy.

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5 responses to “Lesbian and Gay Families Working Around Florida’s Adoption Restrictions

  1. The rules about who can adopt really are antiquated. They seem to have been set up with the understanding that part of adoption is concealing the adoption from the child and from the community at large. They want to replace the child’s mother and the child’s father and I guess the best way they thought to do it was all at once with people who are married at the time of adoption. Its absurd to require it – they can divorce on the day following the adoption in theory. It also seems unfair to me that men and women do not need to be married to become mothers and fathers when their child is born, they don’t even have to like eachother or want anything to do with eachother and that does not stop them from being what they are – mom and dad. Women have now successfully gone after sperm donors for child support now I believe based on the fact that you really can’t waive your parental responsibilities prior to the birth or conception of your child – in theory that would apply to an anononymous donor as well as a known one (although I doubt many mom’s who use anonymous donor sperm will ever seek support from the anonymous donor) but the fact remains – he does not need to be married to be a father with father responsibilities. And so it makes no sense to me why single men and women cannot adopt. Also since you can be gay/lesbian and reproduce and have a right to raise your offspring and be either mom or dad – why would adoptive parenthood which is suppose to be equal to regular parenthood be contingent upon what your sexual orientation is? What does who a person has sex with have to do with being a parent or adoptive parent anyway? Straight or Gay, people don’t typically do more than kiss and hug their partners in front of their children. Its all so absurd and such a violation of civil rights. See those laws should change.

  2. I’m thinking about there being such a publicisized shortage of anonymous, semi anonymous eggs and or sperm donors. I’m thinking about the fact that there are plenty of notable accidental ART mix-ups and not an insignificant amount of deliberate ones scandalizing the industry and I’m also thinking about the great stem cell research controversy. All those thinks get me to thinking women like Monika who agree to create their offspring specifically so that an infertile friend can experience pregnancy and the joy of raising children – are totally at risk of being victimized by careless or diliberately deceptive and opportunistic labs and doctors because her DNA is not Tagged to her Eggs and because women are not forced to take a DNA test at birth proving they are related to the child or have permission from the woman who is related to the child before being certified as the child’s mother .

    • What I mean is its easy for the lab to say they retrieved 4 eggs when in fact they retrieved ten. The lab can sell the eggs to whoever they want or indiscriminately fertilize her eggs for ready made embryos for sale or stem cell research all without Monika’s consent. If they tested women at birth she could be notified of the birth of each offspring base on a dna database search of all women who had their eggs removed as donors or for their own purposes. She could be notified and decide if she wants to raise her own offspring or if she wants to let the woman who gave birth raise her offspring or if that woman is thief or she just does not know her then she could put the child up for adoption. Imagine Monika notified of the birth of a child half way across the country – the people might be nice, but she consented to let her friends raise her kid knowing she could keep an eye on her kid and knowing her friend’s character. She might want them to adopt her kid if she never wanted to raise children herself, but had a concience about keeping tabs on her offspring and being nearby.

  3. I agree that the law in Florida is antiquated and should be changed. It seems clearly discriminatory. Single parenthood, even in the best case scenario where there is lots of informal and formal supports, is a real challenge. Yet nearly 4 out of every 10 births in the USA are to unmarried women. We allow that yet not two people who are gay to adopt in Florida????

    • Allow unmarried women to give birth? That’s kind of like allowing unmarried people to have sex – eh? (got some Canadian relatives too) People are gonna do what they’re gonna do, I think the law should pretty much limit legislating behavior to holding people accountable for the outcome of their actions, which means I think both male and female kanoodlers are parents obligated to take care of the little bugger or find someone to do it for them fair and square (post birth).

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