TALLAHASSEE -- If an appeals court reverses a South Florida judge and rules that Florida's ban on adoptions by gay couples is valid, the state's child welfare agency won't remove the two children at the center of the challenge, the head of the agency said Monday.
Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon said that even if the Third District Court of Appeal -- or eventually the Supreme Court -- rules that the adoption of two boys by Martin Gill, a gay man, should not have been allowed, the state won't move to remove the children from his home.
``Those children appear to be safe , well-adjusted,'' Sheldon said. ``We're not in the business of doing that [removing them].''
Gill was allowed to adopt the children by Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman, who in allowing the adoption, found the state's ban on gay people adopting children unconstitutional. That ruling came in late 2008 and the state appealed the ruling to the district appeals court where a decision is yet to come down.
Sheldon made his remarks at a question and answer period with reporters after a luncheon address during a seminar on legal reporting at the state Supreme Court.
Sheldon also said that the Third DCA has had the case for an awfully long time -- and wondered what was taking so long. ``It's time for that case to be decided,'' he said.
Sheldon's remarks followed comments last week by Gov. Charlie Crist about the state's appeal of Lederman's ruling. Crist, who has said he supports the right of gay people to adopt children, said he was reviewing whether the appeal should continue.
But Sheldon said the agency wants the case to go through the appeals process in an effort to get a final decision that would make it clear that judges statewide would be able to allow gay adoptions if the couple is qualified, leaving it up to judges on a case-by-case basis.
Sheldon said both sides in the case want finality. ``We need an appellate decision to say 'this is the constitutional status of this,''' he said.
Sheldon said Crist, despite comments that he was reviewing the case, intends to let it proceed. ``We need to allow this appeal to move forward and he [Crist] understands this,'' Sheldon said.
Sheldon has noted in the past that he voted against the ban when he was in the Legislature, and he said Monday that adopting couples' ``sexuality should not come into'' the decision on whether they can adopt.''
Gill is being represented by the ACLU of Florida. Its executive director, Howard Simon, said last week that Gill doesn't want the case dropped by the state because he also wants a ruling on the constitutionality of the law that is binding statewide.