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In Florida, the question of whether homosexuals should be allowed to adopt may soon be decided by the courts. Florida is the only state in the nation with an outright ban on gay adoptions. But in a series of recent decisions, courts have overruled the ban saying it violates Florida's constitution.
Now the issue is before a state appeals court, as NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN: At Martin Gill's home in Miami, it's a typical weekday afternoon. The kids are home from school, and he's picking up to make room for visitors.
Mr. MARTIN GILL: Sometimes there's like three pair of shoes from one kid in here.
(Soundbite of a child screaming)
Mr. GILL: And it's like an hour before they weren't here and I'm like, okay, you put them on...
ALLEN: This is the home of Martin Gill, his partner, and two brothers, 5 years and 9 years old, whom they're seeking to adopt. The two boys have lived with the men for five years as foster children. For most of that time, the couple has been in court fighting for something Florida forbids gay couples: the right to adopt children.
While we talk, Gill gives the kids some Play-Doh.
Unidentified Child: I can make a snowman.
Mr. GILL: Okay. It's not right for you to talk that loud.
GREG ALLEN: In court papers, the names of Gill's partner and the children have not been released for privacy reasons. By the time they began taking care of the two brothers, Gill says he and his partner were experienced foster parents, taking care of six different children under license from the state's Department of Children and Families.
They had planned to stop fostering children and move to Georgia, where they'd bought a home and where they hoped they might eventually adopt. But that plan changed.
Shortly before Christmas in 2004, Gill got a phone call from a social worker asking him to take two brothers temporarily as foster children. At first, he said they couldn't because they'd soon be moving.
Mr. GILL: Basically, then she said, well, you could give these kids a great Christmas, and I'd hate to see them go to a shelter, that kind of thing. And I thought to myself, you know, we've got Christmas plans but they're right here, and we're inviting family here. Certainly, we've got room for two more needy kids. And I said okay. We said yes.
ALLEN: Gill says the boys were in bad shape, victims of neglect. Both had severe cases of ringworm. The baby, just 4 months old at the time, had a fever.
Several months later, after a social worker told them the brothers would probably be separated and the older one likely not adopted, Gill and his partner went to court. A state judge ruled in their favor, finding that Florida's law banning gay adoption was not in the best interests of children and was unconstitutional.
The ACLU has fought the law and lost twice. Gill's lawyer Rob Rosenwald says this case has succeeded so far because it focuses on one constitutional issue: that the law violates equal protection rights of both children and gay adopting parents.
Mr. ROB ROSENWALD (Attorney): The children, in that it permanently denies them the chance to have a permanent home with their gay caretaker. It violates the rights of the parents by treating them differently than their straight counterparts without any rational basis.
ALLEN: Along with this case, there are other signs that attitudes toward gay adoption are changing both in the courts and among the public. A recent Quinnipiac poll found a majority of Floridians now oppose the ban. And the Gill case is one of three in which state courts have overruled Florida law and approved gay adoptions.
Even within state government, support of a law sometimes appears lukewarm. The state Department of Children and Families recently reversed itself and approved payment of health and education benefits to the adoptive son of a gay man.
As to why it opposes adoption in the other cases, DCF spokesman Joe Follick says it's a matter of upholding the law.
Mr. JOE FOLLICK (Spokesman, Department of Children and Families, Florida): Like every state agency, we are governed by the laws set by the legislature, approved by the governor, and if necessary, adjudicated by the courts. Until there is a unified Appellate Court decision on this issue, we are bound by Florida statute to defend and adhere to the law.
ALLEN: The issue is now before Florida's Third District Court of Appeals and is headed most likely to the state Supreme Court.
Greg Allen, NPR News.