On July 21, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the nation’s strongest law against homosexual adoption, sparking criticism from homosexual-lobbyists but praise from pro-family and evangelical Christians nationwide.
The case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sought to overturn a unanimous decision by the state’s three-panel court in January to uphold the law. The ultra-liberal ACLU appealed the decision to the full court – a majority vote was needed for a reversal, but the July appeal was split by a 6-6 vote.
"Common sense and human history underscore the fact that children need a mother and a father," said Mathew Staver, president of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief. "Hopefully this decision will form a basis for other states to follow Florida’s example of preserving family relationships that include a mom and a dad.”
Most of the six justices who voted against the law based their decision on the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas ruling that overturned anti-sodomy laws.
"There is no comparable bar in Florida's adoption statute that applies to any other group," wrote Judge Rosemary Barkett, who argued that the law unnecessarily singled out homosexuals. "Neither child molesters, drug addicts, nor domestic abusers are categorically barred by the statute from serving as adoptive parents."
However, the six justices who voted for the law clearly wrote in their opinions that homosexuality is not a fundamental right and that children should be raised in the presence of both a father and a mother.
Justice Stanley Birch – one of the three-panel justices in January – wrote in his July 21 opinion that even if Lawrence "did acknowledge a constitutional liberty interest in private sexual intimacy, this liberty interest does not rise to the level of a fundamental right."
"If I were a legislator, rather than a judge, I would vote in favor of considering otherwise eligible homosexuals for adoptive parenthood," wrote Birch, saying that he personally opposes the law, though he believes it is constitutional.
Nonetheless, Birch added that he would not "allow my personal views to conflict with my judicial duty.”
In Birch’s January opinion, he wrote that “The state has a legitimate interest in encouraging this optimal family structure by seeking to place adoptive children in homes that have both a mother and father. Florida argues that its preference for adoptive marital families is based on the premise that the marital family structure is more stable than other household arrangements and that children benefit from the presence of both a father and mother in the home.
"Given that appellants have offered no competent evidence to the contrary, we find this premise to be one of those 'unprovable assumptions' that nevertheless can provide a legitimate basis for legislative action."
The pro-family leader Bill Murray – director of the Family Research Council – praised the justices for their “judicial restraint” in a statement released last week.
“In 2004, it is rare to find an example of judicial restraint,” wrote Murray. “Our courts at both the federal and state level are only too eager to push a liberal, secular agenda rather than decide legal issues on solid constitutional and public policy footing. Recently, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals bucked that trend in a bold move: upholding Florida's ban on adoption by homosexuals.”
“The politically incorrect fact is that homosexual households simply do not provide everything that is needed for the proper development of children. No matter how much money they make, and no matter how hard a same-sex couple tries to be good parents, their households by design fail to provide children either a mother or father role model,” Murray continued, adding, “The Eleventh Circuit is to be applauded for recognizing and enforcing that truth.
Currently, Mississippi and Utah have similar laws banning homosexual couples from adopting children. Florida is the only state that thoroughly bans all homosexuals from adopting.