Commentary: Gay rights are about equal rights

Ever so slowly, gay rights are being endorsed by the courts. In South Florida, three circuit court judges have ruled that the state's ban on gay adoptions is unconstitutional. The state, wrongheadedly, is appealing two of the rulings in the Third District Court of Appeal.

And last week in California, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips declared the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members unconstitutional, saying the "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates the First Amendment and due-process rights of lesbians and gay men.

In both instances, national public opinion has shifted to support gay rights, according to Gallup and other polls. The courts are following suit. Why aren't lawmakers?

Repealing the military ban is supported by President Obama, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Colin Powell, the former chairman, among many others. The U.S. House has passed a bill repealing the ban, and now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to bring the repeal to a floor vote next week. It still faces stiff opposition from Senate Republicans.

Chances of the Florida Legislature repealing the ban on gay adoptions are less likely in the short term. Florida is the only state with an outright ban on gay adoptions, even though it allows gays and lesbians to serve as foster parents.

The idea that gay men and women can be foster parents for Florida's neediest children -- often for years -- but not become their legal parents is based on such contradictory logic that, once challenged directly, it was bound to strike judges as unsupportable.

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