MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - A Martin County judge has cleared the way for a same-sex couple to build a new life with a child who now has a place to call home.
The ban on same-sex adoption stood firm in Florida for more than 30 years, and for 10 years, Jessie and Cooper Odell say they've had the desire to adopt a child.
Monday night, that desire was fulfilled. They've now adopted a 9-year-old son, George.
For a decade, this same-sex couple fought for the day they could walk into court and have their adoption request approved.
"I can't believe it's finally over," said Jessie.
"I'm 47 now and I never thought this day would come," said Cooper.
The battle had been waged since 1977. A 33-year ban on same-sex adoptions in Florida was lifted in 2010 in a ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami.
"The state was saying you can't because of your lifestyle, but George doesn't care. He is happy to have a stable home now," said Cooper.
"We've been fighting since 2001, it's been the longest pregnancy ever. It's the greatest outcome it could have been," said Jessie.
Their adopted son George had suffered neglect and abuse, child advocates say, before going into the foster care system three years ago. They said it seemed like he might bounce around that system until adulthood.
"It's a dream come true, I never thought we would find the right people," said child advocate Agnes Brady.
"The judge basically handed me my son finally," said Cooper.
Judge Sherwood Bauer says it's his first time approving adoption for a same-sex couple.
"We follow the law, and if it provides a willing family capable of doing what is best for the child, then adoption should occur," said Judge Bauer.
Many lawmakers opposed lifting the same-sex adoption ban. Governor Rick Scott was among them. But now advocates say they have the law and cases like this one on their side.
"I don't think in a child's mind they see gender at all," said Brady.
"I have had people say you've deprived him a chance of having a mother. Well my child has been in the system three years, how long does he have to wait for a mother?" said Jessie Odell.
Despite the ban being lifted, they say same-sex couples still have a difficult time being considered as adoptive parents.
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