The advertisement stunned readers of the Florida Bar News.
The headline reads: "What's so gay about it?"
What follows is every vicious stereotype known to homophobia, portraying gays as little better than wharf rats: filthy, diseased and promiscuous.
Leesburg attorney George Metcalfe placed the ad but politely declined to talk about it. Apparently it was in response to the Bar Association's implicit support of a gay foster parent who wants to adopt two children rescued from a crack house.
This has upset a handful of socially conservative attorneys. Those in the Liberty Counsel, a socially conservative law center in Maitland, have filed a legal brief in opposition to the adoption.
In many ways, the brief is more ignorant and offensive than Metcalfe's ad.
I wrote about this adoption case last year.
The story began during the 2004 Christmas season, when state social workers brought two brothers to foster parent Frank Gill. They picked him because of his experience and success in dealing with the hard-luck cases.
The boys certainly were that.
John, 4, wore filthy clothes, suffered from a severe case of ringworm and was all but comatose, responding only to his 4-month-old brother, James. He had become James' main caregiver, feeding him and changing his diaper as his parents huffed their drugs.
John shunned affection. He grunted instead of talked. He hoarded food because in the world he came from, it was not a commodity to take for granted.
James was so young, he healed quickly. But it took Gill and his partner, Tom Roe, two years of relentless compassion to reach John. And now both brothers are thriving. They have friends, a school, a safe neighborhood, loving parents and, most of all, structure.
Gill saved their lives.
Everyone who knows the boys, including a state-appointed guardian and a child therapist, say this house is where they belong.
A circuit-court judge agreed, granting Gill permission to adopt the boys. This prompted an appeal from the Attorney General's Office, charged with defending an archaic state law that bans gay adoptions in Florida.
The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar Association then decided to get involved. Its executive committee voted unanimously to file a brief in support of the two boys, and then won the unanimous approval of the Bar Association's Board of Governors to do so.
The Liberty Counsel then tried unsuccessfully to block the brief, which could hold sway with the Third District Court of Appeals in Miami. The hearing is scheduled Aug. 26.
Also filing briefs in support of the adoption are the Child Welfare League of America, the American Psychological Association, Florida's Children First, the Florida State University Public Interest Law Center and the University of Florida Center on Children & Families.
The Liberty Counsel has filed a brief in opposition, along with the Christian Coalition and a small group of conservative pediatricians.
In its argument, the Liberty Counsel states the obvious. The best place for children is with a mother and father. The brief then states that placing the two boys with Gill denies them that ideal.
What the brief doesn't say is that there often are no Ozzies and Harriets lined up for damaged kids, that there were no takers for John and James, which is why Gill has had them so long.
The Liberty Counsel is arguing a fantasy.
Then it makes this absurd statement: "... [T]he Circuit Court detailed the various parenting functions performed by the prospective adoptive parent, including feeding and clothing the children, overseeing their homework and taking them to tennis lessons. As necessary as these functions are, they are not sufficient to provide a family environment that is in the best interest of the child ..."
Can you imagine the effort Gill put into rescuing John? Can you imagine the baggage that boy arrived with and the love and patience required to overcome it? You think your kid is a handful? Imagine a boy who knew only the kind of abuse we couldn't even imagine the first four years of his life.
And the Liberty Counsel reduces this to giving him a pair of pants, filling his cereal bowl and taking him to tennis lessons. I would like to see one member of the Liberty Counsel who has exhibited anything close to this level of Christian compassion exhibited by Frank Gill.
Instead, the Counsel sits back in judgment, painting blindly with its broad brush, oblivious to the fate of these two boys if they ever were yanked from the only family they've ever known.
Ironically, one sentence in George Metcalfe's offensive Florida Bar News ad actually nails the key point: "Children are the heart of this issue, not adults."
If that were true, these adults would leave these children alone and let them live with their dad.
Mike Thomas can be reached at [email protected] or 407-420-5779.