As foster parents, two young brothers were placed in our care in 2004 and were in a bad state of neglect, but were thriving by 2007 when they became free for adoption and we sought to adopt them. DCF deemed us “model parents” and agreed that allowing me to adopt the boys would be in their best interest, but because Florida law categorically excluded “homosexuals” from adopting, the boys were facing the risk of removal from our home.
After a daunting legal battle that spanned almost five years, on September 22, 2010, three judges in the appellate court unanimously ruled the adoption ban unconstitutional. Based upon over three decades of scientific research, presented by numerous experts, the appellate court found that the adoption ban served no legitimate child welfare purpose.
I fought Florida's ban for five long years so that I could give my two boys a loving, permanent family and also to make it possible for other children in Florida to find families of their own. With such a shortage of qualified families, we can’t afford to throw away any ready, willing and able families.
It is time to do away with laws, policies and practices throughout the U.S. that exclude gays and lesbians from serving as adoptive and foster parents as they do irreparable harm to countless children. Exclusions of this kind serve no rational purpose and arbitrarily restrict many good parents from adopting.
At present, five states explicitly restrict same-sex couples from adopting. Six states ban same-sex parents from adopting their partner’s children. More than two dozen states remain silent on the issue. This harms children as it leaves them vulnerable to the biases of individual agencies and case workers and often results in children being denied the benefit of adoption by well-qualified, loving parents.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act was introduced in the House by Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.) and now has 81 bi-partisan co-sponsors. A companion bill has just been introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).
This bill would ensure that our country is doing everything possible to move children out of the foster care system and into permanent loving homes. It would eliminate discrimination in foster and adoption placement policies based on the marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity of the prospective parents.
There is more reason for urgency.
Florida's ban was the longest lasting and most egregious, but similar ballot initiatives and proposed laws have popped up in a number of states.
It happened in Virginia, where proposed regulations that would have eliminated discrimination in foster care and adoption were rejected, at the request of Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General.
It happened in Arizona where Governor Jan Brewer recently signed a bill giving a married man and woman “placement preference” in adoption over single adults.
And it was narrowly avoided in Illinois where a state Senate committee rejected an amendment that would have allowed religiously affiliated child welfare agencies to refuse to place a child with a couple in a civil union.
These efforts push a political agenda at the expense of children who are at their most vulnerable.
That is why the Every Child Deserves a Family Act is so important and I encourage Congress to take action this November during National Adoption Month.
Gill was the plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit that rendered Florida's ban on adoption by gay parents unenforceable.