Family section takes new tack to support gay adoptions

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first_img March 1, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News Family section takes new tack to support gay adoptions Family section takes new tack to support gay adoptions The bill would not strike the ban, but would skirt the law for gay foster parents Jan Pudlow Senior Editor The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section Executive Council has unanimously voted to support a bill that would allow gay foster parents to adopt if it is in the best interest of the child.Family Law Section Chair Evan Marks said it is his “hope and prayer that the Board of Governors will recognize the insanity of not allowing people who are already fostering these children” to give them permanent homes. Marks said he believes this issue is much less potentially divisive than his original failed request to lobby for the repeal of the gay adoption ban.“What inspired it is the sheer injustice of these good people who have given so much to these children and cannot adopt,” Marks said of the bill.There is no mention of sexual orientation in HB 633, with bi-partisan support among its co-sponsors: Rep. Sheri McInvale, D-Orlando, and Rep. Faye Culp, R-Tampa.But the first line of the bill says “notwithstanding §63.042″ — referring to Florida’s law banning gay adoption. Marks worked with McInvale in his personal capacity as an individual lawyer to help craft the bill.In December, with a 31-13 vote, Marks lost an impassioned request before the Board of Governors to allow the Family Law, Equal Opportunities Law, and Public Interest Law sections to lobby for the repeal of the state law banning homosexuals from adopting. The majority of governors were persuaded to reject Marks’ plea because of a Bar rule that says if an issue “carries the potential for deep philosophical or emotional division among a substantial segment of the membership,” the section cannot be allowed to lobby for it.But Marks stresses HB 633 does not seek to repeal Florida’s ban on gay adoptions, and he is only asking the board for permission for the section to support a bill that has already been filed.“Everyone agrees that the prejudicial, bigoted language of the statute (gay adoption ban) written as the result of the Anita Bryant days should not and could not stand. However, because of our political climate, there is a very small likelihood of success,” Marks said. “Nobody wants to touch it. Everybody recognizes the problem, and the first thing we can do is allow foster parents to adopt. While it doesn’t solve the problem, it is certainly a step in the right direction.”Of 42,000 foster children in Florida, many are currently cared for by gay and lesbian couples who are doing a great job and are paid by the state, according to Marks.“A lot of these children are not adoptable. They are too old. They have illnesses. Many are HIV positive. As a result, they are fortunate to be in foster care with foster parents who are good, qualified, and loving,” Marks said.“However, these same foster parents can’t adopt, and that’s wrong.”HB 633 says a foster parent who has cared for a child for 36 months or more is eligible to adopt, and should be given first consideration by the court, if the foster parent has developed a bond with the child, has an excellent record of foster parenting with the child, and it is in the best interest of the child, among other factors.McInvale told the Tallahassee Democrat: “Our law says you’re a good enough foster parent to take a kid in state custody, but you’re not a good enough parent for an adoption. This is a wrong that needs to be righted, after the [U.S.] Supreme Court refused to hear the Florida case in a challenge to the state law, because all of the plaintiffs in that case were foster parents.”Culp said she agreed to co-sponsor the bill because, “It’s still going to be up to a judge.”In the Senate, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, filed a bill that is similar — SB 1534 — but will not require foster children to live 36 months with the foster parent because bonding can occur sooner. Her bill, she said, provides a two-prong test for judges: Determining by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioning adults are the child’s “parental figures” and if adoption is better for the child than continuing in foster care.Marks said he sees “a great, great potential for this law to pass and be signed into law.”As chair of the Family Law Section, he wants permission from the Bar to lobby legislators.“I truly believe that the Board of Governors is made up of well-meaning people who are hardworking, volunteering their time in an effort to make The Florida Bar a great place to be,” Marks said.“I believe, on this issue, the lack of information and education allowed good people to fall back on the way they were raised and their emotional beliefs, which have prevented some of them from looking at the big picture. I do believe, in reflecting on this issue, that many of the people of the Board of Governors have had a change of heart.. . . This gives me a good feeling of hope. I feel inspired. I feel my efforts should be redoubled. I have to tell you that, on behalf of the section, I want to work within the Bar to use the prestige and honor of the Bar, to be bold enough and courageous enough to take a difficult position for the right thing.”last_img

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