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Lesbian parents test Florida adoption law

Nell Frizzell June 23, 2009
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The case of Lara Embry and Kimberly Ryan, two lesbians who adopted each others’ daughters and are now separated, has forced the gay adoption issue in Florida into further deliberation.

The couple adopted each other’s daughters while living in Washington, where the practice is legally recognised, UPI reports.

Four years after Ryan gave birth to her daughter (who was adopted by Embry a few months after the birth) the couple moved to Florida and separated .

Although the two women initially held custody and visiting rights, by 2007 the relationship between them had deteriorated to the point where Ryan refused to allow Embry any contact with her adopted daughter.

Embry has fought for visitation rights as an adoptive parent but Ryan, who is now engaged to a man, has challenged this right.

Florida is the only US state with a blanket ban on gay adoption, so the case of Ryan and Embry has centered around whether the state must recognise the adoption laws of other states, such as Washington.

Last month, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s decision, giving Embry the same rights as any adoptive parent, with one judge writing: “Ms Embry’s same-sex relationship with Ms Ryan is irrelevant for the purpose of enforcing her rights and obligations as an adoptive parent.”

However, Ryan has said that she will appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court.

The case has divided opinion across the state. “It’s direct conflict with its own laws,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver, who is representing Ryan in the trial. “My concern is it would create a back-door way around Florida’s law. … That’s not good for Florida’s children.”

However, Sharon Rush, a law professor from the University of Florida, argued: “The fact that Florida has to acknowledge the adoption doesn’t mean people have to interpret that as Florida approves it.” Rush went on: “It is just a sign that another part of the country has moved in that direction.”

Related topics: Americas

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