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Alex Sink raised the bar in the race for Florida governor Sunday by calling for the state to end an outright ban that prevents gays and lesbians from adopting. Sink made the challenge in a speech to the state's largest gay rights group. Her approach could end the state-sponsored bigotry that denies vulnerable children safe, stable homes.

Florida is the only state with a blanket ban barring adoption by gays - though the state, hypocritically, will allow them to serve as foster parents. The adoption ban is an embarrassment in the 21st century and a pound-foolish policy in a state where nearly 20,000 kids languish in foster care awaiting permanent homes. Sink, the state's chief financial officer and the leading Democrat running for governor, said gays should be allowed to adopt if three circumstances are met: a judge approves it; experts agree; and the adoption, which would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, clearly serves the best interests of the child.

Advocates working to end the 32-year-old ban say Sink is the first statewide elected officer in Florida to publicly call for allowing gays to adopt. That says less about her than the sheep in Tallahassee over the past three decades who have not shown the courage or decency to remove the second-class status that homosexuals have in Florida by virtue only of their sexual orientation.

Sink said she would work with legislators to repeal the law. A Florida appeals court is weighing the ruling last year by a Miami-Dade judge that the ban on gays adopting is unconstitutional. So there is progress on several fronts. But it is shameful that Florida allows gays to be foster parents but not head full-fledged families, and there is only one reason this hypocrisy endures - because our leaders are scared to stand up for a group that has been discriminated against throughout history. Who will join Sink in making the change?