Florida child welfare administrators agreed Tuesday to subsidize services for a teen adopted by a gay man, the Miami Herald reports, noting that the decision chips away at the state's ban on adoption by gays.
A judge had approved Key West lawyer Wayne LaRue Smith's adoption of the boy, whose name was not made public, in 2008, despite the state ban. Smith had been the boy's foster father since 2001, when he was 5 years old, and became his legal guardian in 2006.
Florida's Department of Children and Families cited the guardianship as a reason for not subsidizing for the boy's expenses, saying he was not in state care at the time of the adoption. In Tuesday's settlement, DCF administrators agreed to provide health insurance, college tuition assistance, and other
benefits to the teen.
"It means, finally, after 10 years, he gets what every other child in the same
circumstance gets just by asking," Smith said. "In a symbolic sense, for
whatever reason, the department has decided to take the better path, one they
should have taken in the first instance."
DCF officials said the agreement applies to this case only and does not affect other adoptees' eligibility for benefits or the gay adoption ban. "This settlement does not address the ongoing legal consideration of the state's gay adoption laws which, as an executive agency, we are still bound to follow," department spokesman Joe Follick told the Herald.
However, observers said the settlement sends a significant message.
"You have to think: The Department of Children and Families is agreeing to help defray the expenses of a gay man who adopted a foster child," said Alan Mishael, a Miami lawyer who is representing other gay parents challenging the adoption ban. He said he hopes the agreement "is an indication of better things to come."