Waldlaw Blog

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Times They Are A'Changin'

Remember Anita Bryant? The woman who led public campaigns featuring Florida orange juice and raging homophobia, her very own special Mimosa? In 1977, she was given credit for the successful repeal of an equal rights ordinance that had been passed by Miami/Dade County, and Florida has never been the same. Almost 30 years later, in 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found Florida's ban on adoptions by lesbians and gay men constitutional -- a ban that allowed children to be placed in foster care with fit lesbians and gay men, but denied these same children the permanency of adoptions by the people who had taken them in in their moments of need. Florida has never fully shaken off the enduring image of Anita Bryant.

If you go to the website of the Florida Department of Children and Families, and look at their FAQ on who can adopt, you will find the following: "There is no one description of people who can be prospective adoptive parents. If you have the ability to love a child, to provide the basics and to make a lifelong commitment, you can be an adoptive parent. A few things will prevent you from becoming an adoptive parent, such as certain felony criminal records. Section 63.042(3), Florida Statutes, states that 'no person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.'" Great. Felons and homosexuals.

So it was with an overpowering sense of turning tides that I read the letter from the State of Florida Department of Children and Families to its Regional Directors that came across my desktop last week. The "subject" of the letter is "Third District Court of Appeal ruling on the state's ban on adoption by homosexuals as unconstitutional." Then, "Action Required": "Discontinue asking potential adoptive parents their sexual orientation and update necessary forms deleting any reference to potential adoptive parents' sexual orientation. DATE DUE: Effective immediately."


It gets better. As I skimmed down the memo, I came to the section headed "ACTION REQUIRED." It is too good to paraphrase, so I'm quoting: "Effective immediately, staff will discontinue asking prospective adoptive parents their sexual orientation including questioning whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, gay or lesbian. Staff should be instructed not to use this information as a factor in determining the suitability of applicants to adopt and should focus his/her attention on the quality of parenting that prospective adoptive parents would provide, and their commitment to and love for our children."

What a concept -- to focus, in an investigation of suitability to adopt, on quality of parenting and commitment to the children, rather than on sexual orientation. It seems so obvious. But it has taken until now -- over 30 years after Anita Bryant's campaign -- for Florida to get there, and it is a big deal, given the particularly public history of anti-gay activity in that state.

Hopefully, in this regard anyway, as Florida goes, so goes the Nation....


Post a Comment

<< Home