In the late 1970s at the height of an anti-gay campaign in the state, the Florida Legislature passed a law prohibiting the adoption of children by homosexuals, but let stand the allowance that the group was permitted to act as foster parents and legal guardians.
Throughout the next three decades, several unsuccessful attempts were made to challenge the law both in the courts and in the legislature.
The law was finally overturned in November 2008 when the Honorable Judge Cindy S. Lederman of the Juvenile Division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida ruled that the adoption ban was a violation of equal protection rights of the children and their prospective parents under the Florida Constitution. Judge Lederman granted the adoption rights of Frank Martin Gill, an openly gay man and his partner, who had fostered the two children for four years.
The State of Florida appealed the trial court decision but was upheld by the Third District Court of Appeals. The state declined any further appeals, thereby striking down the anti-gay adoption statute.
This spring, the Greater Miami Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, honored University of Miami School of Law alumna Judge Lederman's courageousness with the 2012 C. Clyde Atkins Civil Liberties Award. The annual award acknowledges an individual who has made exceptional contributions to the advancement of civil liberties.
"Judge Lederman's ruling was thus a significant step in confirming the civil liberties of homosexuals and in allowing thousands of children in need of loving permanent parents ready and willing to provide them with stable homes to be adopted," said Raul de Velasco, a board member of the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU.
"Judge Lederman's unyielding dedication to the Juvenile Court and, in particular, her commitment to equal protection rights of children and families of Miami-Dade County has led to fundamental rulings and creative programs altering the lives of so many families," said Marni B. Lennon, Assistant Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono. "She is a most deserving recipient of the C. Clyde Atkins Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU and we celebrate her commitment to justice." Donna Coker, professor of Law, added, "Judge Lederman is a leading voice in this community for fair treatment before the law. She embodies the kind of compassion and integrity that we want in our judiciary."