A Florida appeals court on Wednesday sided with a trial court that found the state ban on gay adoption to be unconstitutional.
The three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami unanimously ruled that gay foster parent Martin Gill can adopt the two young boys he has been raising for six years with his partner. The court said the ban violates the state constitution's equal protection clause and said "gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents."
Gov. Charlie Crist – who had supported the ban as a Republican but switched sides as an independent candidate running for a U.S. Senator seat – said Florida will immediately stop enforcing the law.
"It's a very good day for Florida," said Crist. "It's a very good day for children. Children deserve a loving home to be in, and the opportunity for judges to make this call on a case-by-case basis with every adoption I think is wonderful."
Under the 33-year-old law, homosexuals can be foster parents but cannot adopt. The ban is the only fully enforced one of its kind in the country.
Opponents of gay adoption argue that it is in the best interest of the children to be raised in a home with parents of both sexes.
"Not only would it preclude the child from having a mother or a father, but their view of the opposite sex is skewed," said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "My opinion is the Florida Supreme Court will reverse this decision. If they let it stand, children would ultimately experience long-term negative consequences."
The Department of Children and Families has 30 days to decide whether it will appeal the case to the state Supreme Court. Crist said he would support George Sheldon, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, if he decides to appeal. Sheldon has said he personally does not support the ban, but as secretary he must uphold the law.
Gill and the American Civil Liberties Union want the state to take the case to the Supreme Court so that a final and weightier decision can be made.
"This opens the door for hundreds and hundreds of unwanted children to now seek loving homes within the community regardless of a person's sexuality," said Rand Stephens, director of the Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Community Center of Central Florida, according to the Sentinel.
According to the Department of Children and Families, there are 634 children current available for adoption in Florida, including 35 sibling groups.