Steve Chapman

On Nov. 4, Arkansas voters approved a ban on adoption by unmarried couples. The purpose of the ballot measure, according to the Family Council Action Committee, was "to blunt a homosexual agenda that's at work in other states and that will be at work in Arkansas unless we are proactive about doing something about it."

On Nov. 25, a court in Florida pointed out something that the FCAC and other anti-gay groups somehow manage to overlook: Allowing gay couples to adopt is much less about protecting gays than protecting children.

With that in mind, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman struck down a 1977 Florida law -- the only one of its kind -- that forbids gays from adopting. (Arkansas, Mississippi and Utah exclude unmarried couples, which has the completely intentional result of excluding gays.) In a case involving two young boys taken in by two gay men, she found the law was unconstitutional largely because it violated the rights of foster children to equal treatment under the law.

You could hardly find better proof than this that efforts to combat the "homosexual agenda" mainly serve to harm children in dire need of stable, loving families. Four years ago, Martin Gill and his longtime partner agreed to provide a foster home for two boys, one 4 years old and the other an infant, who showed the physical and emotional effects of neglect, including scalp ringworm.

Now a legal guardian who regularly observes the boys attests that they are, in the judge's words, "in excellent health, well-behaved, performing well in school and bonded to" their foster family. They have a dog, a cat and a rabbit. They attend a church.

But they have also spent four years in limbo. The adults whom they have come to regard as parents were only foster caregivers. Because of his sexual orientation, the state would not allow Gill to become their permanent, adoptive father.

No one else has asked to adopt the boys. Yet the Center for Family and Child Enrichment, which handles these matters, concluded that if the brothers could not be adopted by Gill, it would have to look for other adoptive parents.

Consider the implications of the policy in this case. It would mean removing the children from the home in which they have been raised -- "one of the most caring and nurturing placements" the guardian has ever seen. It would mean putting them through the trauma, once again, of being uprooted and placed with complete strangers. And because of the difficulty of placing kids their age, the CFCE said, it could mean the brothers would be permanently separated from each other.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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