A fair summary of the April 1 letter to the editor regarding gay adoption would be that foster children adopted by gay people are more vulnerable to sexual predators than children adopted by heterosexual parents. As attorneys, such a provocative and wholly unsupported statement should be troubling to us all.
As a former police officer who now practices family law, I am keenly aware of and sensitive to the plight of abused children. The letter writer offers no evidence whatsoever of a nexus between the reaction of a child to the advances of a sexual predator and the sexual orientation of that child’s parents. There is, however, well-known evidence that the vast majority of sexual abusers identify themselves as heterosexual and that many abusers are themselves heterosexual parents. It is also well-known that studies by mental health professionals have shown that the children of gay people do not suffer from confusion regarding their own sexual identities. To the contrary, gay people who adopt children are in a better position than any to explain to their children the role that sexual orientation has in society having themselves voluntarily overcome significant obstacles — legal, political, and social — in order to adopt their children in the first place.
I am personally acquainted with a gay couple who adopted two children. These children are happy and thriving, and are fortunate to be loved by caring parents. The April 1 letter is a thinly veiled attempt to scare readers into thinking that some of the most vulnerable among us — foster children — are at increased risk of suffering at the hands of sexual predators simply because their adoptive parents are gay. The political agenda is evident on the face of that letter, which cites HB 172 regarding gay adoption, which the writer claims would place children at the “highest risk of emotional peril.” While I respect the writer’s opinion, I reject the use of unsupported scare tactics to advance it.
Dennis G. Collard
I have read with some interest the multiple letters published since the Florida Legislature decided to bar gay adults from adopting minors. I also have to admit I have mixed feelings about the matter. I agree there should be limits on persons able to adopt, but not on some simple rule such as whether their sexual orientation is for similar sex adults.
I have practiced for over 24 years, including many adoptions, child dependencies, marriage dissolutions with abused children, and minor guardianships. In my youth I was taught to hate and fear homosexuality. I think in my adulthood I have learned some more of the truth and complexity of sexuality and, unfortunately, the truth about many other relationships. A recent letter to the editor implied children would be more likely to be sexually abused or confused in a homosexual “family,” and “at the highest risk of emotional peril,” than in a heterosexual one. My own experience and studies tend to discredit these generalized opinions.
If the legislature wishes to set limits on who can adopt, then make the limits fact- and science- based, not based on emotion and the leftover bigotry of our childhoods. If the proposed adoptive parents have characteristics that thorough scientific study has shown to be detrimental to the children, then so limit them. No one has produced any credible studies supporting the outright legislative ban on homosexual adoption. This appears to me to be part of the need for people to have some group they can still look down on, discriminate against, and blame for the world’s ills, and that becomes more difficult as we mature and learn the complexities of life.
Bruce E. Hoffman
Suing the Bar
I have practiced law in this state for 29 years, but now I have had to sue the Bar in federal court for its assaults upon my First Amendment right to participate in the public square.
In 1989, I secured the first decency fines levied by the FCC against shock radio stations. The response by the radio stations: filing SLAPP Bar complaints against me. The Florida Bar jumped on the bandwagon; convincing the Florida Supreme Court there was probable cause to believe that “Jack Thompson is so obsessed in his efforts against pornography that he is mentally incapacitated and unfit to practice law.” I had to submit to Bar-mandated psychiatric and psychological tests or be summarily suspended. The result? I was found by the doctors to be a “Christian acting out his faith.” The Bar’s insurance carrier paid me damages. I am now the only Bar-certified sane lawyer in Florida.
The Bar is at it again. I’m the guy who got the Howard Stern Show off all Clear Channel stations on February 24, 2004, when Stern aired the following comment:
(Editor’s Note: A quote attributed to Stern was deleted by the News due to its graphic, racist, and indecent nature.)
After the FCC fined Clear Channel pursuant to my complaint, Naples-based Beasley Broadcast Group put Stern on its Miami radio station. I filed new FCC complaints because Stern’s content violated 18 USC 1464. Beasley’s attorneys threatened and then filed SLAPP Bar complaints against me. The Bar is gleefully pursuing these now as payback.
I have been stunned not only by the Bar’s agenda but also by its wholesale denial of due process. I have been told by a former Bar employee that this is routine. Former Bar President Miles McGrane did a poll of us Florida lawyers a few years ago and found widespread concern that the Bar uses its disciplinary machinery to protect the powerful and hector the unconnected. If the Bar keeps this nonsense up, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is going to step in. Is that what you want?
If you are also a victim of the Bar, I encourage you to contact me.
John B. Thompson
At the risk of alienating my friends and colleagues with a plaintiff’s practice, one is constrained to conclude that the recommendation by The Florida Bar Board of Governors to modify the ethics rules to provide for a waiver of the constitutionally imposed cap on attorneys’ fees does not pass the all important sniff test. We are doing an end run around a constitutional provision. It just smells bad.
Now, of course the lawyers will say with legalistic correctness that clients can waive even more important constitutional rights, that we have to preserve access to counsel, etc., but this cooking stinks up the kitchen. Can you find other instances in the law where the client’s waiver of a constitutional right so directly inures to the financial benefit of the attorney presumably charged with providing the client with informed consent upon which the waiver is predicated?
For as long as I can remember The Florida Bar has had campaigns and made repeated efforts to improve the appearance of attorneys in the eyes of the public. What we do matters more than the rules we promulgate. Creating an ethics rule which has the effect of nullifying a constitutional protection only reinforces the public notion and stereotypical wisecracks related to lawyers pursuing their self-interest. The rules, which require independent review by a judge and approval with the certification that one would otherwise be unable to retain counsel, are potentially valuable in terms of fulfilling the public policy and well serve The Florida Bar by preserving the intent of the constitutional amendment while allowing for necessary exceptions.
A better compromise might be developed with time and experience, but a freestanding waiver eviscerates the spirit of the constitutional amendment. If you are from Iowa and other places with hog-induced bad smells then you know that if it doesn’t pass the sniff test right away, no amount of perfumed argument can make it truly right.
David W. Henry
(Editor’s Note: The Florida Supreme Court directed the Bar to draft a procedure for the court’s consideration whereby a medical liability claimant may waive the rights granted by Amendment 3.)