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Florida appeals court strikes down gay adoption ban

Florida's Third District Court of Appeal [official website] on Wednesday struck down [opinion, PDF] a state law [63.042 text] prohibiting gay couples from adopting, finding that it failed rational basis review and violated the state constitution's equal protection clause. The case was brought by Martin Gill, a gay man who provided foster care for two boys with his partner. After the boys' natural parents' rights were terminated in 2006, Gill applied to adopt the children and was denied. Gill initiated suit, alleging that the statute violated equal protection because it created an "absolute prohibition," while others, including individuals with histories of criminal activity and substance abuse, were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The court found that experts testifying on behalf of the Florida Department of Children and Families [official website] failed to provide adequate evidence to show that homosexual parents are less effective than their heterosexual counterparts, upholding a 2008 trial court ruling [JURIST report]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] praised [press release] the court's ruling as "a victory for the thousands of children waiting to be adopted in Florida." Liberty Counsel [advocacy website], an organization that filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state, criticized [press release] the court's ruling, stating that "[c]ommon sense and human history underscore the fact that children need a mother and father." The state has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court [official website], but Governor Charlie Crist (R) [official website] has already announced that the state will stop enforcing the ban.

Gay adoption rights have become an issue of international significance. Earlier this week, New York Governor David Paterson (D) [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] allowing unmarried partners, including gay couples, to jointly adopt a child. Last month, the UK Charity Commission [official website] ruled that a Catholic social services agency could not restrict its adoption services [JURIST report] to married heterosexual couples and that the discrimination violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. Also in August, the Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] upheld a Mexico City law [JURIST report] allowing adoptions by same-sex couples, determining that a ban would discriminate against same-sex couples and would violate the Mexican Constitution [text, PDF]. Last year, the Uruguayan Senate [official website, in Spanish] voted to approve a law [JURIST report] legalizing adoption by same sex couples.

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