By: Jill Barton, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Florida Lawmakers Rewriting Adoption Law (AP) Florida legislators are busy rewriting a new adoption law that the state’s lawyers are refusing to defend in court.
Lawyers from the state attorney general’s office failed to appear Thursday in the Fourth District Court of Appeals to counter a challenge to the law, which requires birth mothers to publicize their sexual histories in newspaper ads.
The challenge comes from six mothers, who say the law violates their privacy. Legislators, including the bill’s prime sponsor, are drafting a new bill they say will address the privacy issue.
The law, which makes no exception for rape victims or minors, requires a mother — before putting her child up for adoption — to take out newspaper advertisements listing her name, age, and description, and the descriptions of any men who could have been the father. The ads must run once a week for a month in any city where the child was believed to be conceived.
“The state is saying now that somebody’s challenging this law, it’s time to fix it,” Amy Hickman of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys said Thursday after arguing the case.
State Sen. Walter Campbell, who sponsored the original measure, wants the new bill to protect men’s parental rights with a confidential registry of potential fathers. A man who signs the registry would be notified if a woman he named as a partner puts her baby up for adoption.
When lawmakers overwhelmingly signed off on the original bill last year, they cited the three-year fight over Baby Emily, whose father, a convicted rapist, contested her adoption.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that Emily’s adoptive parents should keep her but told lawmakers to set a deadline for challenging adoptions. The new law prohibits anyone from opposing an adoption after two years.
Campbell said he expects the bill to be one of the first pieces of legislation to pass when lawmakers convene in March. “It will fix all the things people are complaining about,” Campbell said.
He added that no one, including adoption advocates, noticed the privacy concerns “until a real case came up.”
A circuit court judge ruled the law should exempt rape victims in Palm Beach County. The appellate court, which did not say when it would issue an opinion, is being asked to declare the entire law unconstitutional.