WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court steered clear of a dispute over gay adoptions on Monday, energizing conservatives who want other states to copy Florida’s one-of-a-kind ban on gays adopting children.
In refusing to review the law, justices averted a second showdown over gay rights in two years. The court barred states in 2003 from criminalizing gay sex, a decision that brought strong criticism from conservative and religious groups.
Monday’s action indicates the court is finished for now with the delicate subject.
Conservative groups cheered the decision.
It “sends a huge message that the court is not going to be open to a broad-based homosexual agenda,” said Mathew Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel in Orlando, Fla.
Other states, he said, should start considering similar laws.
But opponents of the law said they were ready to combat efforts to duplicate it — and encourage Florida lawmakers to repeal the ban.
“Whether kids should have two moms or two dads, it’s always been a fake argument. What all the professional organizations say is sexual orientation has nothing to do with whether someone is a good or bad parent,” said Matthew Coes, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney for four gay men who have challenged the law.
Florida had more than 8,000 children awaiting adoption there in fiscal 2002, and there were 126,000 nationwide, according to the Child Welfare League of America.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has maintained the children, who often come from troubled backgrounds, should have a father and a mother.
The state’s 1977 law, passed at the height of Anita Bryant’s anti-homosexual campaign, prohibits gays from adopting children, either as couples or as single parents.
Two other states restrict gay adoptions. Mississippi prohibits gay couples, but not gay individuals, from adopting. Utah bars unmarried cohabiting couples — gay or heterosexual — from adopting.
Lower courts have been dealing with many cases involving gay parents’ rights to custody and to serve as foster parents. In Arkansas, a judge struck down that state’s ban on gay foster parents in late December.
The Florida appeal was filed by a group of gay men, including a father who has had the same foster children for 17 years. Florida allows gays to be foster parents.
States have not embraced bans on gay adoptions as they have prohibitions on gay marriage, said New York attorney Greg Wallance of the Center for Adoption Policy.
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