A judge in Florida has ruled that a gay man can adopt his two foster children, despite a state law banning homosexuals from adopting.

The ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman may lead the state to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

Frank Martin Gill, a 54-year-old North Miami man, challenged Florida’s decades-old law banning all gay and lesbian people from adopting children.

Judge Lederman decided that Gill’s sexual orientation should not preclude him from being able to adopt his two foster children, whom he has parented for more than four years.

Action on this case at the State Supreme Court level could overturn Florida’s decade’s old ban on gays and lesbians adopting children.

Florida is currently the only state that expressly bans all gays and lesbians from adopting.

The state does allow gays and lesbians to foster parent.

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of LGBT advocacy group Family Equality Council, said:

“Judge Lederman’s ruling is a long-overdue recognition of the equal ability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to raise happy, healthy families. LGBT parents are raising millions of children nationwide.

“Our families are members of communities in every state. We contribute at work and at school.

“We want only to be given the same opportunities and legal protections other families have so that we may best take care of ourselves.

“Florida’s ban on all gays and lesbians adopting has long stood in the face of more than twenty-five years of social science research that shows no difference in the abilities of LGBT and straight parents.

“Countless child welfare organisations attest to the need to support LGBT parents and their families.

“We at the Family Equality Council fully trust that the Florida State Supreme Court, should it hear this case on appeal, will see that the state has no compelling reason to overturn today’s ruling, which evaluated the relationship between Frank Martin Gill and his two sons and, correctly, said, ‘Yes, this is a family.’”

Gay and lesbian parents are raising 4% of all adopted children in the United States, approximately 65,500 children. Three percent are being raised by single lesbians and gay men and 1% by same-sex couples.

The Census in 2000 estimates indicate that 6% of children in non-kin care, with caretakers other than extended family members, are being raised by gay, lesbian, and bisexual foster parents, a total of 14,134 of the nearly 500,000 children living in foster care on any given day.

Gay and lesbian foster parents are more likely to raise children with disabilities—32% of all foster children with disabilities reside with gay and lesbian parents.

Florida is the only state that has a law specifically disallowing gay individuals from adopting.

In Nebraska, although no statutory law exists, a 1995 directive of the then director of the Department of Social Service prohibits adoption by gay individuals as well as individuals who are cohabitating in an unmarried relationship.

In addition, North Dakota law permits child-placing agencies to discriminate against prospective adoptive parents based on religious or moral objection, while Utah law gives preference to married couples over single adults in adoption placement decisions. Both of these laws may have the effect of restricting adoption by gay individuals.

Conversely, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York have policies prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the adoption process.

An individual’s sexual orientation is not a basis for exclusion in Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington DC.

On November 4th Arkansas voters passed Act 1, a citizen-initiated ballot measure statutorily banning all unmarried, cohabitating couples from fostering or adopting children. This act includes all same-sex couples in Arkansas because regardless of their intentions they cannot legally marry in the state.

President-elect of the United States, Barack Obama, has given his support to gay families.

He believes in adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“A child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not,” he said.