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.

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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