Court ruling may try to define a family, but two boys already know what it means

Martin Gill never meant to be here, waiting to hear from the courts any day now, at the edge of what may be a monumental decision on whether gays can adopt in Florida.

It was two little boys that did it.

Authorities brought them to Gill and his partner five years ago in Miami, a 4-month-old baby and his 4-year-old half brother. The two men had been foster parents to several kids, but this time they planned to say no. They hoped to adopt one day, and to do that, they planned to move to Georgia.

Yes, to more-progressive Georgia.

Because here's a not-so-fun fact about the Sunshine State: We're the only state in the nation to flatly refuse to allow gay people to adopt under a 1977 Anita Bryant-era law.

Gay foster parents? Sure. That final step? Sorry, Charlie.

Those are the rules, even if we have nearly 20,000 kids in foster care, even if last year nearly 1,500 kids "aged out" of foster care, meaning they turned 18 without families who wanted them.

This placement will be just a couple of months, the authorities told Gill in 2004. So he and his partner agreed.

It had not been any easy go for the boys before that. The oldest was protective, it turned out. When Gill fed the baby a bottle, the big brother wanted to grab it and take over. Ditto with the diaper. Gill let him try, and the boy knew how.

"He'd been his brother's keeper," Gill told me this week.

But relatives interested in taking them in fell through, and six months turned into eight.

Finally, a social worker said the brothers would likely be split up in the name of "permanency," meaning they could probably find adoptive parents for the little one while his big brother stayed in foster care.

Split the kids?

"I just thought that would be tragic," Gill said. That was when they decided to fight.

So came the lawyers and the courtrooms and the ACLU, and last year a Miami-Dade judge ruled Florida's gay adoption ban was unconstitutional.

The state appealed.

In August, the 3rd District Court of Appeal heard arguments, and now everyone who cares about this is waiting for the decision. ("Why, did you hear something?" asked a secretary for one of the lawyers when I called about Gill's case.)

No matter who wins this round, the other side is expected to take it to the Florida Supreme Court.

It's pretty simple, when you talk to Gill. The boys are doing great, he says.

"I don't consider them my foster kids," he said. "The state may."

Funny how little resistance they have had on that two-dads thing. (Poppy and Daddy, for the record.) Gill went to put them in an evangelical day care because it was the best one around, and the powers-that-be had to meet on it. Finally they decided in the best interest of the boys, and everything worked out fine. Imagine.

Last year for Halloween, both brothers dressed up like Batman. Now 9 and 5, this year they were two trick-or-treating GI Joes, same costume, solidarity among brothers.

"They stick together," Gill said. I mention these details of their lives not for heartstrings and violins, but to say this is a family — no matter what a court rules, no matter what a wrongheaded law decrees.

Court ruling may try to define a family, but two boys already know what it means 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 10:24pm]

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