Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Florida judge declares the state's gay adoption ban unconstitutional

The judges who handle adoptions know a lot about the needs of children. I am sure when Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia reviewed Vanessa Alenier's petition to adopt an infant cousin, she knew the placement was in the child's best interests. The only thing standing between the judge and doing the right thing for that child was Florida's total ban on any adoption by a person who is "homosexual." So the judge had to declare the ban unconstitutional, which she did earlier this month, according to a front page story in the Miami Herald.

I've written about two similar trial court rulings in the past year and a half, one of which is on appeal, with a ruling expected any day.

The most recent case began when Vanessa's aunt called her the day after the child was born. The child had been taken by the Florida Department of Children & Families almost immediately and was hospitalized until he was nine days old. At the trial, the judge heard from Vanessa, her aunt, her uncle, her partner, her partner's mother, a neighbor, a family friend, the child's pre-school administrator, a child psychologist and a social worker. All supported the adoption.

The judge's written order includes the following statements which she made from the bench after hearing the testimony:

"[It] sums up the whole case...the only thing the State or anybody should be looking at, the best interests of the child and how he is loved."

The judge declared the ban "unconstitutional on its face" which means that she found it unconstitutional in all circumstances. It is possible to declare a law unconstitutional as applied to a particular factual situation. So the judge could have limited the ruling to a situation where the child will be adopted by a relative. That this judge went as far as she did suggests to me that at least some Florida judges who actually deal with children who need to be placed for adoption are sick of being blocked from serving the best interests of those children by a law motivated by political ideology and hate. The written ruling states that "there is no rational connection between sexual orientation and what invariably is or is not in the best interests of a child."

Congratulations are due to Miami lawyer Elizabeth Schwartz, who was counsel in one of the previous cases in which a judge also declared the law unconstitutional.

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