Ronner analyzes Florida’s ban on gay adoption
The state of Florida has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the country where homosexuals face a categorical ban on adoption. This issue has been the subject of much discussion and debate, and St. Thomas School of Law Professor Amy Ronner visited campus on Friday to present her upcoming article in the UF Journal of Law and Public Policy, as part of the JLPP speaker series.
The article examines the issue through the doctrine of insane delusion. This doctrine doesn’t often come up in regards to family law, but Ronner said it “tends to come up a lot in wills and trusts, when individuals seek to invalidate wills on that basis.”
While Ronner has done a good deal of scholarship in this area of the law, having written articles and books on homophobia, she used the first part of the presentation to explain the somewhat unorthodox inspiration for this article.
“This article started with a phone call and two stories,” Ronner said. The phone call was from the FSU College of Law’s Public Interest Law Center, who asked Ronner to participate in an amicus brief for a recent homosexual adoption case.
“What about the stories?,” she asked, rhetorically. “I happened to be re-reading William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily. In that short story, Emily Grierson has been sleeping with her dead lover’s rotting corpse for 40 years.”
Grierson, Ronner explained, believed her husband to be alive, despite being surrounded by his unused possessions and unworn clothing. “She clung to this false conception of reality, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.”
The second story was the one of Martin Gill, his partner, and the two young boys they had recently tried to adopt. The two boys came to Gill and his partner when the eldest was 4 years old, and the other just 4 months old. They had been badly neglected, but found a comfortable home with Gill. When he decided to take the next step and adopt the children, he was denied based on the Florida statute that keeps homosexuals from adopting
Gill sued to overturn the decision, and after making a compelling argument based on accepted science and fact, Judge Cindy Lederman sided with Gill, ruling the bar against homosexuals unconstitutional. Ronner quoted Lederman’s opinion, in which Lederman wrote that when taken into Gill’s home, the children “left a world of chronic neglect, emotional impoverishment and deprivation to enter a new world, foreign to them, that was nurturing, safe, structured and stimulating.”
“So what does all this have to do with Emily Grierson?,” Ronner said, as she began to tie the two vastly different stories together. “The narrow thesis in the article is that any court reversing Judge Lederman’s ruling has a lot in common in with Faulkner’s Emily Grierson. That is, that court is laboring under what fits both the psychiatric and legal definitions of an insane delusion.”
Ronner described the experts that appeared in the Gill case as further support for her argument. The government put only two experts on the stand. One wound up more or less siding with Gill, and Lederman found the other less than credible.
For a court to accept the state’s argument, despite all the evidence introduced by Gill, would require more than a differing opinion, Ronner said. It would require the court to be under an insane delusion.
“My thesis is that the only way a court can disagree is if it adheres to a false perception of reality despite being bombarded with overwhelming facts to the contrary,” Ronner said.