Court approves out-of-state gay adoptions in Florida

By : AnitaHeading
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Some of Florida’s adoptive gay parents can breathe just a little easier. A state appeals court has ruled that Florida must recognize gay couples’ adoptions that were granted in other states, trumping Florida’s statutory ban on adoption by homosexuals. 

The case stemmed from Kimberly Ryan and Lara Embry, a lesbian couple living in Seattle, Washington. Ryan and Embry each gave birth to one child and then adopted each other’s child as the second parent. The couple moved to Sarasota, and then later decided to break up but share custody of the children.

That changed when Ryan became engaged to a man and then halted contact between her biological child and Embry, citing new Christian beliefs. Embry sued for custody, but a lower court sided with Ryan, ruling that adoptions in Washington by homosexuals have no legal recognition in Florida based on the state’s ban.  

The Second District Court of Appeals concluded that even though the Washington adoption violated Florida public policy, it was improper for the trial court to rule against Embry. A concurring opinion stated that Embry’s “same sex relationship is irrelevant for the purpose of enforcing her rights and obligations as an adoptive parent.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Florida Law Firm Carlton Fields were part of a team that represented Embry in the appeal. Former Judge John R. Blue, an attorney with Carlton Fields, argued the case before the appellate court.

“We are pleased this decision resolved an important constitutional issue and protected the legal bond between adoptive parents and their children,” said Blue. “The court affirmed the longstanding rule that Florida must honor valid adoptions from other states, which ensures the permanence and stability of parent-child relationships across state lines.”

Ryan’s attorney, Mathew Staver, plans to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

“Florida law does not allow homosexual adoptions, so logically they shouldn’t be recognized from another state,” said Staver, who is the founder and president of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group.

Jennifer Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Carlton Fields, said she’s not sure if the law firm will continue to represent Embry should the case be appealed.

“We hope to be involved, and we want to continue to help in this case,” Mitchell said.

Last year, a Miami-Dade circuit judge ruled the Florida’s ban on gay adoption violates the equal protection rights of children and their prospective gay parents. The state is challenging the ruling.

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