For the second time, a Florida judge has ruled the state’s ban on gay adoptions unconstitutional. It’s a more far-reaching ban than even Arkansas voters have imposed, but the latest ruling, which should lead to a landmark appellate review, strikes at the heart of the issue.

In her ruling, Lederman said children taken into state care have a ”fundamental” right to be raised in a permanent adoptive home if they cannot be reunited with birth parents. Children whose foster parents are gay, she said, can be deprived of that right under the current law.

”The challenged statute, in precluding otherwise qualified homosexuals from adopting available children, does not promote the interests of children and, in effect, causes harm to the children it is meant to protect,” Lederman wrote.

The judge added: “There is no question the blanket exclusion of gay applicants defeats Florida’s goal of providing [foster] children a permanent family through adoption.”

In a ruling that, at times, reads more like a social science research paper, Lederman dissected 30 years worth of psychological and sociological research, concluding that studies overwhelmingly have shown that gay people can parent every bit as effectively as straight people and do no harm to their children.

”Based on the evidence presented from experts from all over this country and abroad,” Lederman wrote, “it is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent. Sexual orientation no more leads to psychiatric disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, relationship instability, a lower life expectancy or sexual disorders than race, gender, socioeconomic class or any other demographic characteristic.

”The most important factor in ensuring a well-adjusted child is the quality of parenting,” Lederman wrote.