For the longest time, I had lamented that my home state of Florida was the last hold-out where gay people could not legally adopt children. I was delighted when the court system began unraveling this law a few years ago, and gay adoption is unequivocally legal now.
Cause for rejoicing, certainly, but there are still some issues that temper my excitement.
Progress began in 2008 when a Florida circuit court judge ruled that the law forbidding “homosexual” people from adopting children was unconstitutional. The state appealed, looking for a statewide final decision on the matter rather than individual circuit decisions, and two years later the appeals court agreed with the circuit court ruling. The state opted not to appeal to the state Supreme Court, believing (correctly, in my opinion) that they stood little chance of winning a further appeal. The state Department of Children and Families has removed the question about sexual orientation from adoption forms, and gay adoption is now legal statewide.
So why am I not thrilled and ready to go adopt? Well, for two reasons.
First, I’m not a Florida resident, and adoption by gay individuals is already legal in my current state of New York. Now, if I move to Florida in the foreseeable future — which is a different subject, but which is becoming increasingly likely — that could be a different matter entirely.
But more importantly, Florida does not currently allow a same-sex couple to jointly adopt a child. Which means that I could adopt a child myself, or Sal could adopt a child himself, but we could not adopt together at the same time.
There are legal ways around this problem. One worth exploring is called second-parent adoption, which I read about on an Orlando attorney’s website: “Second parent adoption in Florida is when an unmarried parent adopts her partner’s biological or adoptive child. This adoption generally gives the second parent full legal parental rights, legal and custodial. Second parent adoption is important not just in Florida, but in any state without same-sex marriage rights.”
This means that theoretically one of us could adopt a child, and the other could then do a second-parent adoption, with an end result of us both being the legal parents of the child. It’s complicated, and will certainly require the input of true experts on the matter, but it’s at least an intriguing possibility.
There’s also the very real possibility that same-sex marriage will be legal in Florida by the time we’re ready to adopt, which could either open same-sex adoptions or at least allow for a “step-parent adoption”, which is simpler… But that’s a hypothetical scenario at this point.
Of course, all of this is much simpler if we just adopt in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal and so is adoption by a same-sex couple. And nothing says that we couldn’t adopt here in NYC and then eventually move to Florida with our child/children.
But I’m starting to suspect that a move to Florida is likely to happen sooner than an adoption.