Opinion

Commentary: Florida's gay adoption ban was always wrong

Not often does an opinion from the solemn reaches of the Third District Court of Appeal read so darkly funny, as if Joseph Heller had come back from the grave as a judicial ghost writer.

Something about the three-judge panel's clever and frequent use of a word utterly incongruent with the state's case: "rational." Fifteen times by my count. (Plus two "rationales" for extra comic flourish.) As if the panel had really, truly expected to discover an intellectually defensible, "rational" basis for the state ban's on gay adoptions.

"The question is whether there is a rational basis for the difference in treatment," the judges stated.

Except they were dissecting a moldering, fallacious hunk of legal sophistry; the defense of a law, circa 1977, crafted to appeal to the low instincts of backwater bigots and bible-thumping homophobes. The judges, just for laughs, had dressed up a drunken hog wrangler and taken him to the opera.

The court weighed each argument proffered by the Florida Department of Children & Families and dryly noted the crazy contradictions.

Gays can't adopt. Ever. Yet convicts can. Though, the court added, with just a mild bit of sarcasm, "There is a five-year preclusion if there is a prior history for assault, battery, or a drug crime."

Gays can't adopt, but other problematic categories can, even "with serious or chronic medical conditions that could predictably compromise the ability to provide the physical, emotional, social and economic support necessary for a child to thrive."

DCF had argued (in a defense so slapstick you wondered whether its embarrassed lawyers were purposefully playing this to lose) that gays were banned because children would have "better role models and face less discrimination" if they are in homes with husbands and wives. Except the court noted that 34 percent of the state adoptions go to single parents. Meanwhile, Florida has no compunction, legal or otherwise, about placing foster kids with gay foster parents.

"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 court stated. "No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument."

Well, someone has. Sort of. The opinion's funniest references invoked the only expert the state scrounged up who supported a total ban on gay adoptions. The court noted that George Rekers' harsh theories about gay parenting were contradicted by a voluminous amount of peer-reviewed science.

The court didn't bother mentioning that this great critic of homosexual stability was outed in May after his 10-day jaunt in Europe with a Miami-based male prostitute procured from RentBoy.com. Mention Rekers' name in South Florida, someone answers with a RentBoy punchline.

"We conclude that there is no rational basis for the statute," the court ruled.

It's up to Attorney General Bill McCollum whether to appeal. During McCollum's failed campaign for the Republican gubernatorial campaign, he tried hard to keep up with the gay-bashing Rick Scott. It was like 1977 all over again.

But the defeated McCollum has been freed from the bonds of low-down politics and the burden of a very laughable case. Finally, Florida can get rational.

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