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Martin Gill, first openly gay man to legally adopt in Florida, pursues Every Child Deserves a Family Act

Martin Gill, the gay man who fought Florida's adoption ban and won, has written this editorial for National Foster Care Month in May:

Hope for Children in Foster Care

BY MARTIN GILL

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to raise awareness about
foster care and the adoption of children and youth from foster care.
In the U.S. there are over 400,000 children in foster care, of which
104,000 are eligible for adoption and waiting to be placed with a
"forever family." Tragically, each year 26,000 youth age-out of foster
care having never been adopted.

The Every Child Deserves a Family (ECDF) Act can solve that problem
while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars. This bill would ensure
that our country is doing everything possible to move children out of
the foster care system and into permanent loving homes. It would
eliminate discrimination in foster and adoption placement policies
based on the marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity of
the prospective parents.

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act is being re-introduced in the
House by Miami's own Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Atlanta's civil
rights legend Rep. John Lewis. In the Senate, it is being
re-introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY). The Honorable
Federica Wilson of Miami is also an Original Co-Sponsor of the Act.
The bill has been rapidly gaining bi-partisan support.

Ironically, as a registered Democrat, I am especially proud that the
Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has shown great leadership in being one
of the Act's Lead Sponsors. She recognizes that the Every Child
Deserves a Family Act is in the best interests of foster children. And
more than that, she knows that that this is truly a human rights
issue; the right to the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.

As the plaintiff in the adoption lawsuit that rendered Florida’s ban
on adoption by lesbians and gay men unenforceable, I know first-hand
the harm that such policies can cause.  I have been a foster parent to
25 children over the last ten years and have seen the harm that comes
to the many kids who don't get adopted.  And I have seen the
incredible difference that an adoption can make in the lives of foster
children.

In most states, including Florida, gays are not given the right to
marry or the right to adopt jointly.  This robs children of a very
important safety net. Their kids are cheated out of access to health
insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, hospital visitation,
as well as a number of benefits and rights heterosexual couples take
for granted. If one parent dies, there is often no guarantee that the
surviving parent can get custody of a child he or she may have raised
since birth.

According to the Family Equality Council, there are 39 States that
currently restrict the ability of same-sex couples to adopt and States
with the most same-sex couples raising kids live in the states with
the fewest protections for LGBT people.

Florida's adoption ban was the longest lasting and most egregious, but
similar ballot initiatives and proposed laws have popped up in a
number of states. Some have gone as far as to propose banning all
single and unmarried parents from adopting. Knowing that a third of
all adoptions in Florida are by single parents, this would harm
countless children.

These efforts push a political agenda at the expense of children in
need of permanent homes and loving, devoted parents.  Each year around 26,000 youth in foster care age out of the system at age 18, having never been adopted. Yet there are an estimated 2 million gays and lesbians in this country who are willing to adopt.

I truly believe that Every Child Deserves a Family. If there is even
one child denied an adoptive family then we are not trying hard
enough. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act offers a solution to the
problem by allowing more well-qualified, loving parents to adopt.  It
offers a safety net to some of our nation's most needy kids.

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