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Florida Bar Meddling in Gay Adoption Controversy

•  State Bar News     updated  2009/02/11 10:58


Today Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the Florida Bar Association demanding that it stay out of the homosexual adoption controversy and pointing out that the First Amendment requires that the mandatory bar association remain neutral on controversial issues that have nothing to do with the regulation of attorneys. The letter was written by Mathew Staver on behalf of the other Florida Bar members of Liberty Counsel and its many Florida Bar members who are affiliates with the public interest law firm. Staver is the Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

On January 30, 2008, the Florida Bar Board of Governors voted to file an amicus brief through the Family Law Section, arguing against the 1977 Florida law which prohibits those actively engaged in homosexuality from adopting Florida's children. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Keller v. State Bar of California 496 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1990), ruled that mandatory bar associations like the Florida Bar cannot use member dues to support ideological causes which are not germane to the goals of regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal service.

Liberty Counsel and its Florida Bar members have a direct stake in this case, as the law firm drafted the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment and successfully argued on behalf of that amendment before the Florida Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel also filed a brief in support of the same law which is now being challenged and which was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. See Lofton v. Kearney, 358 F.3d 804 (11th Cir. 2004).

In the letter to the Florida Bar, Staver wrote: "Liberty Counsel will be filing an amicus brief in support of the same Florida law which the Florida Bar recently voted to oppose. As a mandatory bar association, the action by the Florida Bar has made it an adversary of the members it represents. This action has placed the members of the Florida Bar in a very uncomfortable position. When this same issue arose while the Lofton case was appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the former members of the Board of Governors took the right course of action by agreeing not to enter this political arena because of the conflicts it would create with its members. That was the right decision then, and this recent vote is the wrong decision now. The First Amendment demands that the Florida Bar respect all of its members and thus refrain from entering into this controversial arena."

Staver concludes the letter by saying, "We want peace with the Florida Bar and do not want to be placed in an adversarial position. However, we are serious about our First Amendment rights and the proper role of the Bar in respecting those rights. We therefore ask that the Board of Governors immediately rescind its vote and remove the Florida Bar from this political issue."

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