James Richardson tosses out the gauntlet at his new blog, The Skepticians, in discussing a recent ruling in Florida that overturned a ban on gay couples adopting children.  Richardson worked at the RNC this past year, and believes that the gay-rights issue will eventually marginalize the Republican Party.  He sharply criticizes the proponents of the ban in Florida:

Florida’s indefensible ban dates back 31 years to Anita Bryant’s “Save our Children” crusade. On the day of its passage, freshman Sen. Don Chamberlin of Clearwater asked of his colleagues: “Will we sleep better knowing we have institutionalized shame for those who have already felt shame? Is there sufficient justification to deny one child — one parent — the joy of being a family?” In the eyes of Florida’s state senate, there was, indeed, “sufficient justification” to pass the reprehensible ban. Chamberlin’s heartfelt and courageous plea was met with support of only four senators: Betty Castor, Jack Gordon, Kenneth Myers and Lori Wilson.

Joining Florida’s dubious ranks are Utah—a state settled largely for the Mormon Church’s non-conventional marriage practices (discontinued in 1890)—who bans unmarried straight or gay couples from adopting or fostering children, and Mississippi—a state with a less than sterling record in upholding the rights of minorities—who has legislation to ban gay couples, but not single gays, from adopting. What is it about gay couples like Frank Gill and his partner that are so toxic to children? Florida’s current listing of “adoptable” children includes 453 Boys, 274 Girls and 39 Sibling Groups – none of which can be adopted by gay men and women. Having the government (i.e. Katrina bunglers) raise the next generation of Americans seems much more preferential than a loving, stable home with, God forbid, two same-sex parents…

My support for gay adoption will surely be met with hostility and, no doubt, charges of RHINO’ism by many of my colleagues, but the Grand Old Party is at a crossroads and now is not the time for an echo chamber. Homosexual demagoguery is not the answer to the Party’s woes, particularly when gay men and women represent the only demographic in which John McCain bested President Bush (27% to 19% based on exit polling). And as Daniel Blatt notes, gay-hostile rhetoric no longer resonates in suburban areas with soccer moms, many of whom have gay friends or family members, and plays even worse with young voters, 61% of which voted against stripping gay couples of the right to marry.

In this case, the judge ruled that the state of Florida had conflicting statutes in allowing gay couples and single gay people to act as foster parents while denying them the right to adopt children.  That does seem rather strange.  If gay couples cannot adequately serve as adoptive parents, why would the state allow them to act in the more-risky role of foster parents?

My preference would be to see orphaned children placed in married homes with a mother and father.  That would be my preference for all children, as I believe that to be the healthiest environment in the general sense.  However, I would much rather see a child adopted by loving single parents or gay couples than raised in orphanages or series of foster homes.  While there are many couples waiting for babies through adoption services with wait times as long as five years, many children that are older or who have special needs wait for their entire childhood to find a home.

I’d prefer, though, that any changes to public policy come from the legislature or referendum.  The judge was right to note the hypocrisy, but judges should limit themselves to constitutional challenges when it comes to changing law.  Our system does not set judges as an unelected star chamber to decide on public policy.  The people of Florida may have a rational reason to have two sets of qualifications for foster homes and adoption, even if the judge doesn’t agree with it.  If it doesn’t violate the state constitution, then the judge’s role is to enforce the law, not change it.

Also, James is a nice guy — we’ve met a couple of times — but he takes the wrong tone in this challenge.  Public adoption is a difficult responsibility, and the opponents of gay adoption are concerned about the welfare of children placed in homes.  For some reason, James seems unwilling to credit them with any good motives at all.  If he doesn’t want hostility as a response, he might be advised not to offer it as an argument in the first place.