The Gaily News: Lesbian custody battle challenges Florida egg donor, gay rights laws

A part-time teacher in the Miami-Dade School District, who was fired last April for his gay porn past, is a step closer to returning to the classroom. The Florida Education Practices Commission, based in Orlando, ruled in favor of reinstating Shawn Loftis' teaching license, even going so far as to say he could pursue a full-time teaching position. Loftis, who will remain on probation for two years, directed and starred in a series of gay adult films using the name Collin O'Neal.

Hoping to attract more LGBT tourists to Orlando, Converge Orlando Inc., a new visitor's bureau that targets gay tourists, put in a bid for hosting the 2018 Gay Games in the land of Mickey. The sports spectacle — essentially the gay Olympics — would take place in October, a month when other major events, including Orlando's Come Out with Pride Week, Epcot's Food & Wine Festival and Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, draw significant crowds to the area. Converge officials are hoping the Gay Games could bring in as many as 200,000 attendees, though past games have generally only drawn crowds between 10,000 and 20,000.

A lesbian couple's custody battle, which has made its way to the Florida Supreme Court, could force lawmakers in the state to reconsider the definition of motherhood, as well as sperm and egg donor laws and legislation concerning gay rights.

The Brevard County couple had a daughter together in 2004, nine years into their relationship. One partner donated the egg that was fertilized and implanted in the other. Two years later, the pair split, and the birth mother left Florida with the girl, without telling her former partner, the biological mother. The birth mother was later tracked down in Australia.

A lower court ruled that the biological mother has no legal rights under state law and the birth mother should have legal custody of the child, though the judge noted that he hoped his decision would be overturned. This is exactly what happened when the case made it to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach. A judge there ruled that the women should share parental rights.

Now, the case is pending in the state's Supreme Court and raises constitutional questions about sperm and egg donor rights, same-sex marriage and the rights of gays to adopt and raise children.

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