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Florida's strict ban on adoption by gay people is unconstitutional because no other group, even people with criminal backgrounds, are singled out for a flat prohibition by state law, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal upholds a 2008 decision by a Miami-Dade County judge who found "no rational basis" for the ban when she approved the adoption of two young brothers by Martin Gill and his male partner. The prohibition was first enacted in 1977 and is the only law of its kind in the nation, according to court records.

In a 28-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the court noted that gay people are permitted to become foster parents or legal guardians in Florida, yet are the only group not allowed to adopt.

"It is difficult to see any rational basis in utilizing homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on those same persons," wrote Judge Gerald Cope for the panel. "All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents."

The decision is likely to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which could then determine the ultimate fate of the law. "We note that our ruling is unlikely to be the last word," the appeals panel said.

The ruling came in an appeal of the 2008 decision by the state Department of Children & Families, which had urged the judges to consider evidence of what it said were risk factors among potential gay parents. These factors, according to attorneys for the department, included more sexual activity by children of gay parents and more incidents of teasing and bullying suffered by children from gay households.


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