Yesterday, newly-minted Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed David Wilkins to head the state Department of Children & Families. Wilkins recently served on Scott’s transition team, but is also the financial chief of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, which requires adoption applicants to “be a professing Christian, be active in a local Christian church, and follow a lifestyle that is consistent with the Christian faith.” Several LGBT groups are raising concerns about Wilkins’ background and the timing of his appointment, which occurs just months after the Third District Court of Appeal declared Florida’s gay adoption ban unconstitutional:
Both Sheldon and then-Attorney General Bill McCollum chose not to appeal the Third District Court of Appeal’s ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, saying the decision held sway throughout the state. Sheldon ordered his leadership team to cease enforcing the ban.
But Wilkins and Scott could challenge the Miami ruling by refusing to allow a gay man or woman to adopt elsewhere in the state — which could trigger an appeal to the state’s highest court. [...]
Howard Simon, head of of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented Martin Gill in his successful challenge to the law banning gays and lesbians from adopting, said, “we’re certainly concerned about whether this might mean the state might try to undo our historic adoption victory.”
“I only hope for the sake of all the people of Florida that Mr. Wilkins is able to step out of his deeply sectarian position and apparent views as part of the Florida Baptist Children’s Home and serve the needs of all Floridians — not merely those of his denomination and not merely those who are Christian,” Simon added.
In an interview with me this afternoon, the ACLU’s Simon said he hopes Wilkins will adopt a broader perspective than that of the organization that he has been affiliated with, but cautioned that conservatives could use the appointment to try to reinstate the ban by creating “some kind of competing case in which a different court of appeals would come to a different conclusion” or passing a bill through the legislature. Simon described the likelihood of a new case making its way through the court system as “remote” but warned that conservative lawmakers could amend the Florida constitution to reflect the ban. “That would be the much more threatening route to undoing the historic victory,” Simon said, noting that there is a possibility of “a very divisive and ugly ballot measure in 2012 that will try to carve out some exception and constitutiaonlize discrimination against gays and lesbians.” The Florida House and Senate are both dominated by Republicans.
Scott told reporters today that he doesn’t have a position on gay adoption, but reiterated that he believes “adoption should be by a married couple.” He said he hasn’t “had any discussion on the gay adoption ban” with Wilkins, but said he – not Wilkins – will decide whether or not to pursue a new gay adoption policy for the state following the court ruling. “First off, I’m the governor,” Scott said. “So whatever my position would be would be the position that would be enforced.”
In September, the Third District Court unanimously upheld a lower court’s finding that there is “no rational basis” for Florida’s statutory ban on gay and lesbian people adopting children in the state. “Given a total ban on adoption by homosexual persons, one might expect that this reflected a legislative judgment that homosexual persons are, as a group, unfit to be parents,” the opinion stated. “No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument.” Then Attorney General Bill McCollum decided not to appeal the decision.