supported by The Florida Bar’s Family
Law Section, chaired at the time by Scott
Rubin with Fogel Rubin & Fogel, in the
form of an amicus brief.
In the end, the 3rd District Court of
Appeal struck down Florida’s ban on
adoptions by gays and lesbians, a law that
stretched back to the late 1970s—the days
of Anita Bryant, beauty queen, orange juice
spokeswoman and anti-gay activist.
But this story begins with Martin Gill and
is familiar to any Floridian with a newspaper,
TV or Internet access: Just before Christmas
2004, social workers brought two ragged
and neglected little boys to Gill’s home.
The older one, who was 4 at the time, was
wearing an adult-size T-shirt and sneakers
four sizes too small, according to the court
papers. The little one, only 4 months old,
had an ear infection. The older boy didn’t
speak for a month; his main concern was
feeding and changing his baby brother.
Take the kids in, the social workers pleaded.
It’ll be temporary. Just a few weeks.
Scherker and Bass teamed up to challenge the state’s gay adoption ban.
An experienced and well-regarded
foster parent, Gill agreed—and quickly
learned that the boys’ situation was even
worse than he thought. The older boy
had never seen a book, couldn’t count,
couldn’t identify colors, couldn’t even hold
a pencil. He hoarded food at dinner.
The arrangement turned out to be far
By 2006, the Department of Children
and Families (DCF) terminated the
parental rights of the boys’ biological
parents, making them eligible for adoption.
Gill wanted them. He had fostered more
than a half-dozen children before and was
always heartbroken when he had to give
them up. To him, these were his children;
he was their Papi. But the state of Florida,
though it considered him an exceptional
foster parent, would not let him adopt
because of his sexual orientation.
At the time, Florida was the only state
to categorically deny gays the right to
adopt. They could be foster parents. They
could be guardians. And anybody else
could adopt—single people, people with
disabilities, those with HIV or AIDS, people
with criminal records.
Gill contacted the ACLU and sued the
state, arguing that he was being treated
unequally. His case was handled by Leslie
Cooper, a senior staff attorney with the
ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender
Project in New York.
The boys had Bass and Scherker on
their side, and the ACLU represented Gill.
The lawyers were under no illusions about
what they were up against. The tension
occasionally kept them up at night. They
also knew that if they won at trial—hardly a
foregone conclusion—the state would appeal.
“It is actually common for GT appellate
lawyers to become involved at the trial
level in major cases, and to advise our trial
partners in a wide range of cases,” Scherker
says. What could have been a case of too
many lawyers spoiling the soup became
cooperating teams of legal advocates
pursuing a common goal.
The ACLU lawyers were happy to have
Greenberg Traurig on board. “We were
thrilled that the children’s counsel, who
agreed that the ban worked against the
interests of their young clients, advocated
along with us to have the law declared
unconstitutional,” Cooper says.
The state took a hard line in defense of