Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Gay Adoption Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by four homosexual men who challenged Florida’s ban on adoption by gay couples, closing the book on a yearlong attempt to rule the ban unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by four homosexual men who challenged Florida’s ban on adoption by gay couples, closing the book on a yearlong attempt to rule the ban unconstitutional.

The case began last January when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)'s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project challenged the Florida law as unconstitutionally singling out gays based on discrimination, on behalf of the four gay individuals.

"The plain and well-understood purpose of the ban was to tell gay people to go back into the closet," ACLU attorney Matthew Coles told justices in a filing.

During the January 28, 2004 case at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia found the law banning the adoption of children by homosexuals was constitutional, since adoption is a privilege, not a right, awarded to stable parents.

“[W]e have found nothing in the Constitution that forbids this policy judgment. Thus, any argument that the Florida legislature was misguided in its decision is one of legislative policy, not constitutional law. The legislature is the proper forum for this debate, and we do not sit as a superlegislature to award by judicial decree what was not achievable by political consensus,” the Eleventh Circuit stated last year.

In July, the full court deadlocked on a 6-6 vote to reconsider the case, making the Supreme Court the only remaining option to appeal.

The Supreme Court’s decision today marks the final chapter in the four men’s challenge to lift the ban.

Florida is currently the only state with such restrictions on adoption. According to the Liberty Counsel, one of two groups that filed an amicus brief on behalf of the law during last year’s case, adoption is a privilege, and as such, the state may “make classifications in the adoption arena that may be constitutionally suspect in other areas.”

Liberty Counsel’s brief read that the Florida legislature had “a legitimate interest in encouraging a stable and nurturing environment for the education and socialization of its adopted children…. [b]y seeking to place the children in homes that have both a mother and father.”

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, applauded the Supreme Court decision, saying that “common sense and human history underscore the fact that children need a mother and a father.”

“Since the plaintiffs originally conceded that ‘barring homosexuals from adoption in the best interests of Florida’s children is on its face a legitimate purpose,’ the Supreme Court’s denial is consistent with the statements of the plaintiffs and will serve to support the law’s legitimate purpose of preserving the traditional model of the family,” he continued in a statement released Monday.

Staver also explained that the ruling was a victory for pro-family advocates in other states as well.

"The message to the other states is you can follow Florida's lead with policies that encourage kids to be placed with moms and dads," explained Staver.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush agreed, saying children should have both a father and a mother as stable influences in growth.

"It is rational to believe that children need male and female influences to develop optimally, particularly in the areas of sexual and gender identity, and heterosexual role modeling," justices were told in a filing by Florida's attorney, Casey Walker.

The gay adoption-ban challenge is the second “showdown over gay rights in two years,” according to the Associated Press. The other case, in 2003, involved a challenge criminalizing gay sex. During the decision, the high court ruled that states “cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

According to Liberty Counsel, the adoption ban differs from the anti-sodomy ban, since the decision to “adopt a child is not a private decision but a public act.”

The case is Lofton v. Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, 04-478.