TALLAHASSEE – s Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday that he’ll consider ending a legal battle over Florida’s ban on adoptions by gays, but a man who challenged the law doesn’t want him to.
The former Republican’s comment came a day after his independent U.S. Senate campaign issued a position paper supporting several gay rights issues he’d once opposed, including adoption rights.
A Miami judge last year declared the state’s ban on adoption by gays and lesbians unconstitutional.
The state Department of Children and Families, which is under Crist, has asked the 3rd District Court of Appeal, also in Miami, to reverse the ruling. Regardless of how the appeals court rules, the case likely will wind up in the Florida Supreme Court unless Crist decides to drop it.
“I’m going to review it before I make that call,” Crist said.
While gays can serve as foster parents in Florida, it’s the only state that bans them from adopting without exception, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the plaintiff, Martin Gill.
Florida ACLU executive director Howard Simon said Gill wants the case to run its course in the courts because that’s the only sure way to kill the ban. Dropping the case now would mean the judge’s ruling applies to only one of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits, Simon said.
“You’re not doing anybody a favor by even considering a premature halt to this case,” he said. “We need a final determination.”
Simon said he’d encourage the state to take the case to the Supreme Court even if the appeal court rules against the ban. He said that ruling could come as early as Wednesday.
Echoing his position paper, Crist said he believes judges should decide on a case-by-case basis whether an adoption is in a child’s best interest no matter the adoptive parents’ sexual orientation.
Brian Winfield, spokesman for the gay rights advocacy group Equality Florida, said it’s appropriate for Crist to consider dropping the appeal after releasing the position paper.
“Those decisions should be left to the people closest to the case,” Winfield said. “We’ve been saying that for years.”
Both of Crist’s opponents in the Senate race, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek, were quick to point out the governor has switched positions on the adoption issue and the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which he once supported but now wants to repeal.
Crist also supported a state amendment banning same-sex marriages Florida voters adopted in 2008. He hasn’t backed of that position, but now he says he advocates civil unions with the full range of legal protections and opposes a similar federal amendment.
The governor, who now needs to attract more Democratic and independent voters, called his changing views “an appropriate evolution.”
“The older you get the more tolerant you become, the less judgmental you are, and that’s called wisdom,” Crist said. “Maybe I was more rigid earlier, but I don’t feel that way. And I know who’s supposed to be judging people, and it’s not me.”