Steve Chapman

And for what? Solely to shield them from the supposed perils of gay parents. Gays are treated as more dangerous than felons, drug offenders and known child abusers -- none of whom is categorically barred from adopting.

As it happens, those dangers are mostly imaginary. According to evidence cited by the judge, gays are slightly more likely than heterosexuals to suffer psychiatric problems, engage in substance abuse and smoke, but so are lots of other groups that are allowed to adopt. The American Psychological Association says it finds no difference between the parenting of homosexuals and heterosexuals.

Would orphaned and abandoned children be better off if every one of them could be raised by stable, loving, heterosexual couples? Possibly. But that's not an option. For many children, the alternative to having gay adoptive parents is having no parents at all.

There are hundreds of kids in Florida who need adoptive families -- nearly 1,000 at any given moment. The average child spends 2.5 years in foster care before being adopted, and some wait forever. Noted Judge Lederman, "165 children in Florida aged out of the system in 2006 without ever being adopted."

The Florida ban is simple and stark. It says, in effect, that a child may not be adopted by gays

even when the adoption is in the best interest of the child . That's the main reason the court overturned it: It violates the rights of children and "causes harm to the children it is meant to protect."

Those who want to keep gays from adopting think that's a small price to pay for blocking the "homosexual agenda." But then, they're not the ones who will be paying it.

Steve Chapman

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

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