[JURIST] A Florida trial court judge on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF; ACLU press release] that a Florida statute [text] preventing same-sex couples from adopting children is unconstitutional, allowing a Florida petitioner and his partner [ACLU profiles, PDF] to adopt two children previously in his foster care. Judge Cindy Lederman of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida [official website] found that the 1977 statute violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution [text], citing a recent nonbinding Florida case [JURIST report] in which the trial court judge found that the same statute acted as a bill of attainder intended "to repress gay Floridians as a group" and violated the separation of powers doctrine by precluding judicial discretion. In a 53-page opinion, Lederman wrote that the Florida statute:
violates the children’s rights by burdening liberty interests by unduly restraining them in State custody on one hand and simultaneously operating to deny them a permanent adoptive placement that is in their best interests on the other.
The judge also found that the statute failed to satisfy the rational basis test.
The Florida statute had survived previous constitutional challenges. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld it [opinion, PDF] in 2005 as being rationally related to protecting children's interests, and the US Supreme Court declined to review [Washington Post report] that decision. Until this month, Florida and Mississippi were the only US states banning such adoptions. On November 4, Arkansas voters approved [JURIST report] a ballot measure [JURIST report] prohibiting gays, lesbians, and other unmarried cohabiting couples from becoming either foster or adoptive parents.