Here's the irony in the court case of Frank Martin Gill, a gay man who wanted to adopt the two foster children he already thought of as his sons:
Everyone agreed he was a good father to them — even the people fighting to keep him from legally being their dad.
The boys came to Gill six years ago, dirty and neglected, a 4-year-old and his 4-month-old brother. The oldest didn't talk, hadn't even been taught his colors or his ABCs. Mostly, he just wanted to take care of his baby brother.
Everyone agreed Gill and his longtime partner provided the boys a "safe, healthy, stable and nurturing" life in their Miami home. But when Gill wanted to adopt — to make official what was already a family — Florida law said no.
There's yet another dubious distinction for our state: We are the last in America to have a comprehensive law banning gay adoption — even though hundreds of Florida kids are looking for adoptive parents, even though dozens of foster children turn into adults every year without ever finding them.
I'm sorry, but in what universe — in what heart — does that make sense?
So Gill went to court. A judge agreed there was no rational basis for the law. The state appealed.
At one point, an appeals court judge asked a lawyer for the state what would happen if the ruling went the state's way.
Answer: The boys would be put up for adoption.
Next came the wait, with lawyers gathering around the computer every Wednesday, the day the appeals court decisions are released. "Thirteen months of excruciating Wednesday mornings," Gill says, spent wondering if his boys really could be taken away.
It was kind of an inside family joke, how they are identified in court records, which name children by initials. The oldest, now 10 and growing like a weed, is X.X.G., as in, extra-extra-large. N.R.G. is the 6-year-old — all energy, get it?
Even before Wednesday's decision affirming Gill's right to adopt his sons, there were signs of sanity. Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon — who notably voted against the law in the Legislature three decades ago but whose agency had to fight the legal challenge — said no matter the outcome, the DCF would not remove the boys.
And with the ruling, he said, the DCF will no longer ask the gay-or-not question.
Though the opinion is a strong one, foes are not expected to give up. "We are preparing for what I think will be a vicious and ugly blowback," says Howard Simon, head of Florida's ACLU.
Gov. Charlie Crist may be talking sense, but we're about to elect a new one. The Legislature could, say, move to ban single people from adopting. Angry bloggers are already talking constitutional amendment. Sigh.
There's still the question of an appeal.
As for Gill, he just wanted his family official. He couldn't have known how crazy life would get, how his boys would be invited to the White House Easter egg roll, how his case would spawn the notorious Rentboy scandal when an antigay "expert" witness turned out to have the services of a male escort.
The Wednesday the good news came was so hectic, Gill hadn't cooked dinner. Instead, they would celebrate at a Chinese place, the one his sons love.
The one where everyone knows his family by name.