Constitutional Law

Lesbian Lawyer's Adoption of Relative a 'Third Strike' Against Fla. Statutory Ban

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A Florida judge has approved the adoption of a 1-year-old boy by a lesbian lawyer, in what the Miami Herald describes as a “third strike” against the state’s 1977 ban of adoptions by gays and lesbians.

Describing the state statute as unconstitutional on its face, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia finalized the boy’s adoption by attorney Vanessa Alenier, 34, earlier this month, the newspaper reports. She and her longtime partner, Melanie Leon, 31, have raised the boy, who is a relative of Alenier’s, from infancy with her extended family’s blessing after he was removed from his original home by child welfare workers.

“There is no rational connection between sexual orientation and what is or is not in the best interest of a child,” says Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia in a written order. “The child is happy and thriving” in Alenier’s care and “the only way to give this child permanency … is to allow him to be adopted” by her.

Two other state-court judges have also finalized such adoptions within the last year or so; the first case involved a foster child adopted by a Key West lawyer, Wayne LaRue Smith. Although that case has not been appealed, the second adoption was. The Florida Department of Children & Families hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal the adoption by Alenier, the Herald recounts.

Some, including Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel in Orlando, Fla., see Sampedro-Iglesia’s ruling as “evidence of judicial activism” that contravenes the rule of law by legislating from the bench.

But others, including Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe, say a judge has a higher duty not to apply a clearly unconstitutional law, the newspaper reports.

The agency found out about Alenier’s sexual orientation because she told the truth on a government form which asked the question; she says she didn’t want to begin her life as a parent with a lie.

Hat tip: Miami New Times.

Related earlier coverage:

Capital University Law Review (2003): “In Whose Best Interests: Sexual Orientation and Adoption Law” (Aug. 2009): “Fla. Asserts Unstable Gay Homes Justify Adoption Ban” “Pregnant Pro Se Mom Argued Treatment Case from Hospital Bed & Lost; Will Lawyer Win Appeal?”

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