In 1988, Mr. B., a gay man, filed for adoption of Charles B., a seven-year old boy who suffered from leukemia, a speech disorder, and other health and developmental issues. Charles had been placed in the permanent custody of the Licking County Department of Human Services in 1985. At the agency’s recommendation, Mr. B., a psychologist, began counseling Charles in 1986. After developing a close relationship with Charles and gaining permission from the agency to have Charles stay at his and his partner’s home on several occasions, Mr. B. expressed interest in adopting Charles. Mr. B. continued to demonstrate willingness to care for Charles during the agency’s unsuccessful nationwide search for suitable adoptive parents.
After Mr. B. filed for adoption of Charles B., the agency filed forms expressing its disapproval of the adoption. At the hearing, six witnesses, including the court-appointed guardian, testified on behalf of Mr. B.’s adoption of Charles, while only one witness spoke in support of the agency. The trial court approved the adoption, but the agency appealed. Ohio’s Fifth District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling and declared that it would not be in Charles’ best interest to be adopted by a same-sex couple because “the concepts of homosexuality and adoption are so inherently mutually exclusive and inconsistent, if not hostile.”
In 1989, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard Mr. B.’s appeal. The Court ruled that, under Ohio law, an unmarried adult has the right to adopt, and there is no law prohibiting gay individuals from adopting. The court stated that adoption should be decided on a case-by-case basis by examining the best interest of the child and all relevant factors. The court declared that it was in Charles’s best interest to allow Mr. B. and his partner to adopt him rather than leave him in the care of the agency.
ACLU of Ohio volunteer attorney Denise Mirman filed amicus briefs in both appeals in support of Mr. B. ACLU of Ohio General Counsel David Goldberger assisted on the Ohio Supreme Court brief, in which they argued that the Court of Appeals’ failure to consider the best interests of this child violated the child’s due process and equal protection rights.
Read the ACLU of Ohio’s summary of the case in the Spring 1989 issue of its newsletter, Ohio Civil Liberties.
Read the ACLU of Ohio’s summary of the legal victory in the Summer 1990 issue of its newsletter, Ohio Civil Liberties.