Homosexuals, no matter how exemplary in training and emotional stability, continue to be the object of suspicion when it comes to parenthood, particularly in the state of Florida where there is an outright ban on adoption of children by gays.

Thanks to the courage of talk show host and gay adoptive parent Rosie O’Donnell–and a Web site she publicized, www.lethim stay.com–many Americans now know that a boy named Bert may be ripped out of the only home he has ever known. The administration of Gov. Jeb Bush insists on putting Bert up for adoption knowing that his foster parents would not be eligible under Florida law. How perverse of the so-called family values movement of the Christian right that continues to push for anti-gay adoption bans throughout the nation to mock the love that Christ bestowed on all, and to deny children in cases like this one the only good, loving family available to them.

Bert entered the lives of Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau, pediatric nurses, as a 9-week-old infant, born HIV-positive and with drugs in his blood. Bert was part of an epidemic of sick, abandoned children. He is now a 10-year-old who does well in school and excels in soccer and swimming. Lofton and Croteau were on the front lines of the medical crisis by dint of their training and personal dedication. “Almost no couples–gay, married or otherwise–wanted the HIV-positive babies who had been orphaned or abandoned at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami in the late 1980s and 1990s,” reported the Portland Oregonian. “There were so many ‘boarder babies’ that Croteau frequently cared for sick infants whose bassinets were in the [hospital’s] hallway.”

The state urged the couple, who now live in Oregon, to become foster parents to some of these unwanted, sick babies, and in the years since, Bert and five other children have found a nurturing home with the two men. Such a commitment is not to be accepted lightly; one of the AIDS-afflicted children, a 6-year-old girl named Ginger, died of the disease, a heart-wrenching event for Lofton, Croteau and Ginger’s foster siblings.

Eventually, the family moved from Florida to Oregon to be closer to Croteau’s elderly parents, but Bert was still under the authority of the state of Florida. And there’s the rub: The boy no longer tests positive for HIV, so Florida’s bureaucracy now deems him a suitable candidate for adoption–as long as the parents aren’t gay. Lofton and Croteau want to adopt Bert, but the Christian right’s campaign of hate more than two decades ago embedded a toxic sentence in Florida’s legal code that prevents it: “No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.”

That sentence stands as the purest manifestation of prejudice, for it means that a homosexual’s behavior, no matter how exemplary, is by definition of law irrelevant to judging the individual’s competency to care for others. Citing sexual orientation to the exclusion of all other evidence of parenting skills is as irrelevant as judging a caregiver by the color of his or her eyes, and yet this stupid law has become a model that other states have threatened to follow.

The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have published reports that show no adverse correlation between sexual orientation and the quality of parenting, a finding endorsed by myriad studies.

“I don’t believe there’s a real debate to be had over whether gay people can be good parents,” Rosie O’Donnell said. “The only debate is whether to put bias before children’s future.”

Last week in Texas, a woman was sentenced to life in prison for killing her five young children. She happened to be heterosexual. Meanwhile, five kids orphaned, abandoned or neglected by their biological parents are being cared for and nurtured by two men who happen to be gay. In both cases, sexual orientation is irrelevant.

“This isn’t about Steve and myself and gay rights,” Croteau told the Oregonian. “This is about children’s rights. There are all these children who need a safe home, who need parents who care, who need a childhood. The gay rights issue gets in the way of that.”

Florida’s discriminatory adoption law reflects the blinding intolerance of those who would deny the humanity and decency of the Croteaus, Loftons and O’Donnells of this world, at the expense of innocents.