March 14, 2002 -- A generation ago, former beauty queen Anita Bryant put the national spotlight on Florida and gay rights.
Bryant led a successful crusade to overturn a Miami ordinance banning discrimination against gays. Then, with public support firmly behind Bryant, the Florida legislature passed a law that barred homosexuals from adopting children in 1977.
Today, that law and Florida's posture toward gays are back in the spotlight, as another famous woman, Rosie O'Donnell, is helping to champion gay rights. Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau, whose case got O'Donnell's attention, are challenging Florida's gay adoption ban.
In fact, part of the reason why O'Donnell now is talking about her sexuality and about being a gay mom is to bring national attention to Lofton's and Croteau's plight to keep their foster son, Bert.
"I don't think America knows what a gay parent looks like," O'Donnell tells ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer. "I am the gay parent."
The vast majority of states do not specifically prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children. In fact, only three states prohibit the practice. Some states are considering similar legislation while others have made adoption easier for homosexuals.
Florida's law is considered the nation's toughest, because it prohibits adoptions not only by gay couples, but also by gay individuals. Several legislators who signed the original legislation have now signed a statement saying the legislation was a mistake passed in a climate of prejudice and hysteria. Still, others, like Rep. Randy Ball, a state legislator from Cape Canaveral, ex-marine and graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, have concerns about gay adoption.
"Homosexual couples do not provide the kind of stable, wholesome environment that would justify the state having a law that allows them to adopt children," he says.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to weigh in on the law's constitutionality.
Sampling of States
Arkansas In 2000, Arkansas prohibited gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents. Last year, a bill that would have barred them from adopting failed in committee by one vote.
California In 1999, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' administration changed the policy of his Republican predecessor which held that same-sex and unmarried couples could not adopt children. But now, a different fight is taking place. The California Supreme Court will review so-called second-parent adoptions, in which a biological parent's unmarried partner gains parental rights.
Mississippi Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed legislation barring gay couples from adopting children in May 2000. The ACLU is challenging the law.
Nebraska The state Supreme Court this month rejected a request by a lesbian who wanted her domestic partner to adopt her son. The court avoided deciding if gay couples are prohibited in general from adopting.
New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen signed a law in 1999 repealing the state's ban on gays adopting and being foster parents. "New Hampshire will now be able to judge foster and adoptive families based on their fitness, without making prejudicial assumptions," Shaheen says.
Utah Utah passed legislation in 2000 that bars all unmarried couples — heterosexual or same-sex — from state-sponsored adoptions. The statute doesn't expressly prohibit adoption by single people, nor does it ban same-sex couples from adopting from private agencies.