Personal Reflections on the Martin Gill Case
It's hard to describe my feelings yesterday -- the last day of Florida's incredibly destructive ban on adoptions by gay men and lesbians.
In the early afternoon, I drove our (ACLU of Florida’s) Executive Director and LGBT Advocacy staff attorney from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to meet with representatives from the Community Foundation of Broward, which has supported our LGBT rights work for several years. We talked with them about how in a matter of hours, the hateful law they have helped us battle was in its waning hours.
Indeed, when we left the meeting, we received a call that the Attorney General was likely to issue a statement by 3 or 3:30 p.m. about whether he was going to appeal our court victory of a month ago. As I drove us back to Miami down I-95, we received a few more updates, and there was a lot of speculation about what was about to happen.
Within 30 minutes of returning to the office, we got word that there would not be an appeal. Whoops and hollers of joy surged through our office of 20 staff. Within minutes, our courageous plaintiff Martin Gill — who has become a friend over the past year — arrived at our office with the two little boys who have been at the center of this storm. I kissed and hugged Martin. I congratulated and thanked him for his endurance and courage. The media frenzy began, and Martin was swept up in call after call from newspaper and TV reporters from all over the country.
As he huddled behind closed doors with our Executive Director, Communications Director, and attorneys to conduct media interviews, his two boys (who finally, after nearly 6 years, can share the Gill family name with their father Martin) were running up and down the halls — like 6 and 10 year old kids do. They quickly figured out whose offices had candy and whose offices had cool toys.
They spotted the nerf bowling set that I keep in my office for lighter moments. “C’mon,” they called to me as we snatched up the bowling set and took it into the hallway. Other office colleagues joined us. We bowled. We laughed and ran up and down the halls together, and we peeked into offices to see their dad on the phone with reporters. We played hide and seek. My colleague Kileen took them into the conference room, where they drew on a dry-erase board and played word games. We ate yet more candy and found a bottle of Sprite to share.
The 6-year-old kept asking me to hold him, and I gladly accepted the role of stand-in father while his dad took more media calls. As I held him, he laid his head on my shoulder and nearly fell asleep, sometimes putting his thumb in his mouth.
When the media frenzy slowed and Martin emerged from behind closed doors, the kids returned everything to where it belonged — with some loving encouragement from Martin — and the family left our office to get ready for a party we held last night to celebrate.
I had to go into my office, shut the door, and cry. I cried in happiness for these two little boys who can’t possibly yet know how fortunate they are to have been taken in by their brave and loving fathers. Without Martin and his partner, they were destined for a very sad life, with little chance of becoming thriving adults. I cried in joy for Martin, who is an amazing, humble, and strong man who – along with his partner — has sacrificed more than any of us will know in order to keep this family together. I cried in sadness for the unforgivable damage that this 33-year-old, politically-motivated law did — and I wondered how many thousands of children could have found a forever home, were it not for this law. I cried in relief — finally, the law is gone.
I dashed home and changed clothes, then drove to the party on South Beach. There were hundreds of well-wishers, including dozens of lesbians and gay men who brought their children. It felt like a coming-out party. Martin’s youngest found me and asked me to hold him again, and of course I did so without hesitation. And I thought, this is what the ACLU’s work is all about.