In late 2010, a pair of gay foster dads in Key West heard of a proposed motion picture that sounded a lot like their own legal fight to adopt two sons.
The film mirrors our case here in Florida, said Wayne LaRue Smith, who with partner Dan Skahen in 2008 became the first gay men in Florida allowed to adopt.
Smith and Skahen met with director Travis Fine and, along with Miami lawyer Steven Kozlowski, co-produced the movie Any Day Now, which co-stars Broadway and TV actor Alan Cumming and opens Friday nationally and in South Florida.
I want people to see it because it really moves people, said Kozlowski, who with Miami Beach lawyer Elizabeth Schwartz helped represent Smith and Skahen in 1999 at the beginning of their Florida adoption fight.
Any Day Now has won 10 audience awards at major gay and mainstream film festivals. Last week, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) nominated it as Outstanding Film (limited release).
Set in 1979, Any Day Now is a fictional story of a Los Angeles drag queen named Rudy (played by Cumming) who takes in a youngster with Down syndrome after the boys mother goes to jail on drugs and prostitution charges. Rudy and his boyfriend Paul (Garret Dillahunt of TVs Raising Hope) face many legal hurdles as they attempt to adopt young Marco (Isaac Leyva).
After being grilled in court about whether they would be good parents and role models asked questions like whether the boy ever saw them kiss Rudy and Paul lose their case.
It would not be appropriate to have a happy ending, even though were conditioned to expect one, said Cumming, who co-stars as consultant Eli Gold on CBS The Good Wife and won a Tony opposite Natasha Richardson for the 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret.
Cumming, a longtime LGBT activist, said he took the part for union scale as a social responsibility.
Its not like I have an onus on me to do something I dont want to. It has to be something important, said Cumming, whose latest cause is an anti-circumcision campaign called Intact America.
Cumming, who is married to graphic artist Grant Shaffer, filmed Any Day Now during a 2011 summer break from The Good Wife.
The subject matter, the injustice the horrible, horrible injustice is what I most responded to, Cumming said of the independent film, which cost less than $2 million to produce. The thing I came away from was how awful this wonderful family was destroyed.
Cumming is quick to remind that even though the film is set 34 years ago, its like a reality check. It happens. It still happens.
It stands up on its own as a story in its time, Cumming said. We know that prejudice like that still exists in the world. Its not like it was 100 years ago. Its so upsetting that this thing happened and were part of a society that let this happen.
The local producers agree.
There are still places where these kinds of questions are raised, Kozlowski said. We live in a bubble here in South Florida. a more progressive reality than in other places in Florida. You look at Unfit, the Ward vs. Ward story, that was 1996, not that long ago. Unfit is a 2012 documentary about a Pensacola lesbian who lost custody of her pre-teen daughter to an ex-husband who had murdered his first wife.
Kozlowski also helped represent Steven Lofton, a Florida gay man who in 1999 unsuccessfully tried to adopt his foster sons.
How could no parents be better than gay parents? Thats when ideology trumps the reality, Kozlowski said.
Florida banned gays from adopting just after Anita Bryant successfully campaigned to repeal Miami-Dade Countys gay-rights law in 1977. For 33 years, the state was the only one in the nation that specifically banned gays from adopting. The law was overturned in 2010 when an appeals court upheld an adoption granted to Martin Gill of Miami-Dade County.
Smith and Skahen adopted their boys in 2008. The state chose not to contest a Monroe County judges ruling, making them the first openly gay adoptive parents in Florida.
The message remains an important message, said Smith, a Key West attorney who works with other foster parents, gay and straight, who want to adopt.
Occasionally, we get wind of some politician who wants to reinstate the ban against gay adoption. We have to be vigilant, Smith said. There are still significant voices in Tallahassee and around the state who are opposed to full equality for all families.
Smith said their sons, Alex, 15, and Joseph, 16, attend Northeast boarding schools.
Joseph is dyslexic and in a special school. Hes doing remarkably well. Hes going to a high school that boasts a 100 percent graduation rate, and 100 percent of their kids go on to a college or university. He wants to be a veterinarian and Im very confident he can do it.
Smith said Alex is being educated elsewhere because we dont have a lot of confidence in the local high school.
Both boys are thriving, Smith said.
When you see them realizing their potential, its fulfilling, its humbling, he said. It fills me with the sense of awe about life in general.