In celebration of the hundreds of new adoptions currently being processed in Florida after a 33-year ban on same sex adoption was struck down in the state last year, I wanted to take a moment to remember just how much it means – and revisit the ban’s crazy history for a moment.

Full Disclosure: I wanted to name this post, “Suck It, Anita Bryant” – but I felt that was a little jarring as a headline.

In 1977, former beauty queen and forever bigot Anita Bryant began an anti-gay crusade to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. She named her campaign “Save Our Children,” and peppered the media coverage with such sensational quotes as:

“As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children” and

“If gays are granted rights, next we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters.”

Ol’ Anita was also a commercial queen, known most prominently as a spokeswoman for The Florida Citrus Commission and for her starring role in their orange juice commercials. Later, this association would give a whole new fruity twist to LGBT equality efforts, when gays across the country participated in a ban on O.J., taking Screwdrivers off their menus and replacing them with the apple and vodka concoction called the “Anita Bryant.”

After a lot of hand-wringing, performing, and one famous pie in the face (see below), Anita’s efforts ultimately resulted in a ban on homosexual adoption in Florida that was officially overturned last year.

In November 2008, the law was struck down by state circuit court Judge Cindy Lederman in the case of re: Gill. In the case, a gay male couple raising two young foster children placed with them in 2004 by state child welfare workers were seeking to adopt the children.

In her ruling granting the adoption, Lederman found that the same sex adoption ban violated the Florida Constitution’s equal protection guarantees for the children and their adoptive parents; she added that there was no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting, particularly since the scientific evidence of the suitability of gay parents is extensive, and the state allows them to act as foster parents. The state appealed Judge Lederman’s decision.

On September 22, 2010, the Third District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida unanimously upheld the decision of the lower court. On October 22 of that year, Attorney General Bill McCollum subsequently announced that the State of Florida would not appeal the court’s ruling, thus ending the 33-year-old ban on gay adoptions in Florida.

Since then, family law attorneys estimate more than 100 men and women in South Florida’s gay and lesbian community have pending adoption cases.

To learn more about the Anita Bryant crusades, they touch on the civil rights battle in the film Milk. Also, HBO is rumored to be developing a documentary on her life.

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