Law School Case Brief
Fla. Dep't of Children & Families v. X.X.G. - 45 So. 3d 79 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010)
Under the rational basis test, a court must uphold a statute if the classification bears a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental objective. The classification must be based on a real difference which is reasonably related to the subject and purpose of the regulation.
In 2004, the Department of Children and Families (“Department”) removed X.X.G., then four years old, and N.R.G., then four months old, from their home based on allegations of abandonment and neglect by their parents. The Department contacted a licensed foster caregiver and asked him to accept the children on a temporary basis until a more permanent placement could be found. The children thrived in the caregiver’s household. Because of the natural parents' neglect of the two children, the Department filed a petition for termination of the natural parents' parental rights. In 2006, that petition was granted and the natural parents' parental rights were terminated. X.X.G. and N.R.G. became available for adoption, and the caregiver applied to adopt the children. The Center for Family and Child Enrichment, Inc. ("Family Center"), a private nonprofit corporation, had been monitoring the two boys during foster care and was assigned the duty of evaluating the caregiver's ability to provide a satisfactory adoptive placement. The Family Center reported that the caregiver's home presented a suitable environment and that he met all the criteria required to adopt the two boys. The parties stipulated that the caregiver provided a safe, healthy, stable and nurturing home for the children meeting their physical, emotional, social and educational needs. Nevertheless, the Family Center did not recommended the application because the caregiver was a homosexual and was prohibited from adopting children under subsection 63.042(3), Florida Statutes. The Department denied the application on that basis. The Department acknowledged that it would have approved the application if it had not been for the statute. The Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County (Florida) ruled that § 63.042(3), Fla. Stat. (2006) was unconstitutional and granted the petition for adoption. The Department appealed.
Should the adoption be denied because the adoptive parent was a homosexual?
The judgment granting the petition for adoption was affirmed. The appellate court found that there was no rational basis in using homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on adoption by those same persons. The reports and studies presented to the trial court found that there were no differences in the parenting of homosexuals or the adjustment of their children. The best interests of children were not preserved by banning homosexual adoption. The department argued that the alternative views expressed by the expert witnesses supported the existence of a rational basis for § 63.042(3), Fla. Stat., but the appellate court disagreed. The department argued that homosexuals should have been barred from adopting because their homes may have been less stable and more prone to domestic violence, but the record did not support this. The trial court properly ruled that § 63.042(3) violated the Art. I, § 2, Fla. Const.equal protection provision.
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