State attorney Timothy D. Osterhaus argued in Florida's appeals court Wednesday in defense of the state's 32-year old gay adoption ban.
"There is evidence that homosexuals have higher rates of mental disorders, suicide and domestic violence," he argued. "This is a plausible rationale."
"We should focus on what is best for kids, not on what we can get by with," he added.
After lower court Judge Cindy S. Lederman ruled that there was "no rational basis" for the ban, the state appealed, giving them the burden of proving that there in fact is a basis to keep gays and lesbians from adopting.
The case originated with Frank Martin Gill who aims to adopt two young brothers whom he and his partner have fostered for four years.
Arguments were made in a packed courtroom before a three-judge panel. Osterhaus cited statistics of gay domestic violence and suicide rates that he said gave rational basis, despite what Judge Lederman rule, concluding that broad exclusion of gay and lesbians from adopting was justified.
ACLU attorney Leslie Cooper disputed the statistics, and Judge Gerald B. Cope Jr. questioned the state's rationale.
Cope noted that lawmakers chose not to forbid drug addicts, child molesters or even murderers from adopting, but explicitly banned only gay people. "This is the only absolute disqualifier, as far as I can tell," Cope said. "How can that be justified?"
One of the state's two experts acknowledged that decisions over fitness should be made on a case-by-case basis. The other expert acknowledged he based his opposition to gay adoption largely on religious grounds.
"These kids are thoroughly bonded with us," Gill said of the two brothers. "I really love my kids. I want to be their parent. I want to adopt them."
"I would be absolutely devastated if they were taken from me, but it would be worse for the children," he added.
The case is expected to reach the Florida supreme court.