When Roger Croteau and Steven Lofton look at the five foster children in their care, all they see is love. The Florida Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush apparently see something else.
Croteau and Lofton are fighting to keep Bert, a 10-year-old African-American boy who was HIV positive when he came to their household at 9 weeks old. But because Florida has a statute banning adoption by gays, Bert is in danger of being removed from the only family he has ever known.
Croteau and Lofton have nurtured Bert since infancy. When his mother died in 1994, the gay couple tried to adopt him but were stymied by Florida's law that prevents homosexuals from adopting children. Only Utah and Mississippi have similar laws. Last year, Florida's Department of Children and Families sent the couple a letter saying it wants to put Bert up for adoption. The department says Bert has spent too much time in foster care; and now that he no longer tests positive for HIV, there is a greater likelihood of finding him adoptive parents.
In an effort to save their family, the couple have joined a federal lawsuit challenging the adoption ban. But the courts shouldn't have to rescue these families; the Legislature and governor could easily rescind the law.
The law was passed in 1977 during Anita Bryant's antihomosexual tear through the state. Recently, a group of nearly a dozen former state legislators apologized for their votes in favor of the measure. Of course, buying into Bryant's message of intolerance in the late '70s is one thing. At the time social science didn't have a thorough understanding of just how normal the adopted children of gay parents would turn out.
Today, those who seek to bar gays and lesbians from adopting are not looking out for the interests of children, they are acting out of prejudice. Through years of studies, we now know that children raised in gay households do not have a higher prevalence of homosexuality themselves and are about as happy and well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual couples.
The case for allowing gays and lesbians to adopt foster children is compelling. There are 3,400 children _ many of them with special needs _ languishing in foster care in this state. If the choice were left up to the children, there is little doubt most of them had rather be adopted by loving gay parents than to remain in state foster care. It is heartbreaking that they have no choice because state officials can't see past someone's sexual orientation.