ACLU Asks Florida Court to Strike Tell-All-Adoption Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
February 20, 2003 12:00 am

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Denouncing the Sexual History Newspaper Notice provision of Florida’s adoption law as an egregious violation of privacy, the American Civil Liberties Union today asked the state’s District Court of Appeal to strike the requirement.

“”This provision is a 21st century sequel to the Scarlet Letter,”” said Mariann Meier Wang, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “”It serves no purpose other than to publicly humiliate and harass women,”” she added, noting that the Florida Attorney General’s office has declined to defend the provision.

At issue is a provision of Florida’s adoption law that requires a mother to make public her sexual history if she wishes to place her child with a private adoption agency but does not know the identity or whereabouts of the father.

The law requires the mother to publish her name and physical description; her child’s name and age; the names and physical descriptions, if known, of everyone with whom she had sexual relations during the year preceding the child’s birth; the cities in which conception may have occurred; and the dates on which it may have occurred. The ad must run once a week for four weeks in a newspaper in every city where conception may have occurred.

“”Florida lawmakers have ineptly trampled on the privacy rights of everyone involved-women, their sexual partners, and the children being placed for adoption,”” said Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida. “”Forcing women to publicly reveal intimate details about their sex lives as a price to pay for placing their children for adoption does not promote adoption.””

A less invasive and more effective means of protecting the rights of fathers, the ACLU has argued, would be to institute a mandatory confidential paternity registry, as used in other states, that allows putative fathers to officially record their interest in their children without violating the privacy rights of mothers, children, or the men who may or may not be the father.

The case has been brought on behalf of four mothers who wish to place their children with private adoption agencies without publishing detailed private information about their sexual histories in order to do so. On July 24th, a lower court allowed the provision to stand except in those cases where women became pregnant as a result of forcible rape.

Philip L. Graham Jr. will argue the case today before a three judge panel for the national ACLU and its Florida affiliate, which submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Lynn Waxman will appear on behalf of the four mothers.

The case is G.P., C.M., C.H., L.H. v. State of Florida, No. 4D02-3410. Lawyers for the ACLU brief include Mariann Meier Wang and Diana Kasdan of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Emily Martin of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project; Randall C. Marshall of the ACLU of Florida; and Philip L. Graham Jr., James Andrew Kent, Michael A. Cheah, and Kathrine M. Mortensen.

The ACLU brief is available online at: /node/35063

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