Florida Lesbian/Gay Adoption Ban Challenge Appellate Argument

I’ve written about Florida’s restrictive adoption laws  a number of times.   Florida is the only state that explicitly bars lesbian or gay people from adopting children.   This is an artifact of Anita Bryant‘s 1977 campaign.   Sometimes people work around it.     There are also several cases directly challenging the law.  One of them was just argued on appeal.

Vanessa Alenier has been a foster parent to a boy born in January, 2009 since the child was a few days old.  He is related to Vanessa (so the placement might reflect a preference for foster care by a relative.)   His mother has been declared to be unfit.    I presume that ordinarily in this situation a request by the foster parent to adopt would be viewed quite favorably.  Adoption ensures that the child has a legal parent–it makes the relationship between Alenier and child permanent and assigns full rights and responsibilities to Alenier. 

But Vanessa Alenier is a lesbian.  She lives with her partner, Melanie Leon.   And as I said, Florida will not allow anyone who is lesbian or gay to adopt, even if it is clearly in the best interests of the individual child involved, which it seems clear to me this adoption would be.    

The state, according to this article, invokes the best interest of children–and that plural (“children”) could be quite important.   Though I cannot tell, my guess would be that the state’s argument is that children generally don’t fair well with lesbian or gay parents and that that is the appropriate inquiry rather than the well being of this specific child.    

While I don’t think there’s evidence to back-up the state’s contention on this point, either, it’s an interesting rhetorical move, shifting the focus from the one child here (who would surely benefit from being secure in the only home he has known) to children generally.    It will be interesting to see what the court makes of it all.


3 responses to “Florida Lesbian/Gay Adoption Ban Challenge Appellate Argument

  1. Do you know if a child who has been given up for adoption by both parents can be adopted by an unmarried person? I find it odd that the State would let unmarried people provide foster homes if it won’t also let single people provide adoptive homes. I would think that the criteria for providing a foster home would be as strict or stricter than requirements for providing an adoptive home (because there are opportunistic people who foster for the money the state gives for each child).

    You don’t need to be married to create a child so I fail to see why you need to be married to adopt or foster one. If adoption is really about both parents relinquishing their rights and the state providing a 1 for 1 replacement of the male and female that created the child then fine, but I don’t see how they could require those people to be married or even live together as long as they could reach a custody agreement I think it might not actually be fair to even require that they know each other because that is not required to make a child either.

    The other thing that’s crazy about saying the people that adopt have to be 1 male and 1 female, in an age where disclosure is almost certain and people who adopt no longer pretend to be related to the child they adopted, gender becomes irrelevant to the task at hand. It takes a male to create a child to become a father but it does not take a male to adopt a child to take up 50% of the slack while the kid is growing up. I’m from San Francisco, the law in the south frightens me.

    • I’m not sure about this, but I don’t think Florida distinguishes on the married/single basis, only the gay/straight basis. Thus, a single person can adopt as long as she/he is not a single lesbian/gay man. Also, a lesbian/gay man can serve as a foster parent. That, I suspect, is because the Anita Bryant campaign in 1977 only focussed on adoption. Thus, the restrictive provisions were never copied into the law of who could be a foster parent.

      A number of states do have provisions limiting adoption to married couples, or perhaps barring cohabiting couples. That’s a more recent trend. (You can find discussions of that elsewhere on the blog.)

      It actually seems a bit crazy to me to say that you can be a foster parent but not an adoptive one, and that does seem to be where the ban in Florida is cracking. If you’ve satisfactorily fostered for several years and wish to make the arrangment permanent, most everyone thinks that’s a good thing.

      • I respect people that foster children – they don’t want the child to pretend to be biologically related to them – they just want to be part of a child’s life – to love and hopefully be loved back by a child in need of a home. The laws of Florida are cruel if people qualify for fostering but not adopting/guardianship. If a child is placed in a good foster home and wants to remain there and the foster parent wants to be a permanent guardian to that child it should not make any difference if the foster parent is married or single, gay or straight.

        So many laws to change.

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