The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged a Florida appellate court Wednesday to uphold an earlier ruling that lifted the state's 1977 prohibition that bans gay men and lesbians from adopting children, The Miami Herald reported.

Late last year, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman found the Florida law to be unconstitutional and ordered the state to allow Frank Gill, 47, and his partner to legally adopt the 5- and 9-year-old half brothers they have raised since 2004.

Her 31-page ruling that found the law to have “no rational basis” was quickly appealed. The case is expected to reach the Florida Supreme Court.

The Third District Court of Appeal is hearing oral arguments from ACLU attorneys and the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF), which is defending the law.

“DCF is not going to violate state law,” Judi Spann, chief of staff for DCF, told the paper. “The attorney general has [a] responsibility to uphold and defend the Constitution. The attorney general will be representing DCF in this case.”

Florida is the only state with an outright ban on gay adoption. It was enacted during the infamous Anita Bryant anti-gay crusades of the 70s.

“Florida's law unconstitutionally singles out gay people and the children in their care for unequal treatment, denying many children the permanency and security that comes through adoption,” said Leslie Cooper, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project who argued before the court today. “We are hopeful that the court will see the cruel consequences this law has on children, especially those in foster care who may never know the security of a permanent home.”

Three states – Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas – now have laws that outlaw adoption by unmarried couples. Arkansas' ban was approved by voters in November. While the laws affect both gay and straight couples, they target gay and lesbian couples who cannot legally marry in those states. An effective catch 22 for gay couples.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has said he does not support repeal of the law.