Last week, in a family court in Miami, FL, Gill legally adopted the two boys in what certainly should have been a joyous, albeit not unusual, proceeding. Except that Martin Gill is gay. And so is his partner. And gay adoption has been illegal in Florida for 33 years. Well, it had been, at least.
Six years ago, Martin Gill and his partner became foster parents to two boys, brothers, in what was supposed to be a temporary placement. They struggled with illnesses and distrust and socialization, and so many of the things that foster parents must face on a day-to-day basis. Plus the fact that they were parenting in a state that explicitly believed them unfit to do so. So when Martin Gill petitioned as a single man (Florida has no same-sex marriage recognition) to adopt the boys, his petition was denied on the basis of his homosexuality. The only thing standing between those boys and a secure life with adoptive parents was 33 years of bigotry on the books.
Enter family court Judge Cindy Lederman. In her November 2008 judgment, she not only dismissed the state's argument that homosexuals are unfit parents, she systematically dismantled societal fallacies regarding the evil, drug-addled, mentally unstable, sexually predatory, philandering, morally void, sashaying homosexual. ("Poignantly, Dr. Cochran pointed out that if every demographic group with elevated rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and smoking were excluded from adopting, the only group eligible to adopt under this rationale would be Asian American men.")
"As a result, based on the robust nature of the evidence available in the field, this Court is satisfied that the issue is so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise; the best interests of children are not preserved by
prohibiting homosexual adoption." And with that, the ban was over. For the time being.
So here's where things get interesting. After this initial judgment, the state appealed and the case went before an appellate panel. That panel upheld Judge Lederman's finding, and everyone braced for another round of appeal. Instead, silence. State Attorney General Bill McCollum had opted against appeal, meaning Lederman's ruling would become law of the land.
This doesn't mean things are fixed, that homophobia has been defeated, or that adoption by gay couples will be easy in Florida. The ACLU has put together an extensive handbook for any gay person or couple looking to adopt in Florida.
There is a nefarious tide of anti-gay parenting sentiment growing in Florida, one that could mean the Gills become a rare family unit in that state. We'll be keeping tabs on the folks down there, reminding them whenever necessary what it is that makes a good parent.
It can be frustrating to realize that sometimes a family isn't a family until a judge says so. The emotional relationship between those two dads and those two boys is no different today that it was two weeks ago. Everyone still has to do homework, and fill the dishwasher, and be kind to each other. But today there is no underlying fear that the family will be torn apart, the boys sent back into the foster system.
Judge Lederman put it best when she said, "a child in need of love, safety and stability does not first consider the sexual orientation of his parent."