Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced Wednesday afternoon he will cease enforcing the state's 33-year-old gay adoption law, which was declared unconstitutional by a Miami appeals court Wednesday morning.
Crist lauded the court ruling as "great" and told reporters at a 2:30 news conference he would immediately stop enforcing the ban. Crist said he wanted to confer with the adoptive father at the center of the case before deciding whether to appeal. He said, however, that he believes the state Supreme Court wouldn't overturn the court rulings.
Crist once supported the ban. But the U.S. Senate candidate reversed himself after he left the Republican Party and began courting the liberal vote.
A Miami appeals court ruled Wednesday that Florida's ban on gays adopting is unconstitutional and affirmed the controversial adoption of two foster children by a gay North Miami couple.
The unanimous 3-0 decision deals a critical blow to Florida's 33-year-old law banning adoption by gay men and lesbians, and most likely sends the case to Florida's highest court for resolution.
"Given a total ban on adoption by homosexual persons, one might expect that this reflected a legislative judgment that homosexual persons are, as a group, unfit to be parents," the opinion states. "No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument.
"To the contrary, the parties agree 'that gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents.' "
The decision, by the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami, means Frank Martin Gill will be allowed to remain the parent of his two sons -- identified only as X.X.G. and N.R.G. -- whom Gill and his longtime partner adopted from the state's foster care system in 2009. Gill had been foster-parenting the boys for several years.
The opinion was agreed upon by the three judges who reviewed the case, Gerald B. Cope Jr., Frank A. Shepherd and Vance E. Salter, who wrote a concurring opinion. The 35-page ruling was written by Cope, who also reviewed a similar case this summer involving a lesbian Broward couple.
"Finally, a piece of 30-year-old prejudice has been struck from the law books in Florida," said Howard Simon, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida and represented Gill. "This is good news for the advancement of human rights and the children in Florida's troubled foster-care system."
Wednesday's ruling likely will not be the end of the controversial debate.
Legal scholars have assumed from the beginning that the case was destined to be decided by the Florida Supreme Court. Indeed, Gill's lawyers sought to have the case appealed directly to the state's highest court, but Attorney General Bill McCollum objected, insisting it first be decided by the Miami appeals court.
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