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Florida Poised to Approve Antigay 'License to Discriminate' in Adoptions

Florida Poised to Approve Antigay 'License to Discriminate' in Adoptions

Florida Poised to Approve Antigay 'License to Discriminate' in Adoptions

Lawmakers will vote soon on a bill that would allow state-contracted adoption agencies to reject gay or lesbian parents on religious grounds.

Florida is close to passing a bill that would allow private adoption agencies, even those with state contracts, to discriminate against prospective parents who offend their religious beliefs, such as LGBT individuals or same-sex couples.

The state House of Representatives today rejected amendments to the bill that would have required placements to be based on the best interests of the child and would have banned discrimination based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. As it stands now, the measure “authorizes state-contracted child placement agencies to deny children in state custody foster or adoption placements based on the moral or religious beliefs of the agencies,” notes a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida affiliate. The House is scheduled to vote on the overall bill tomorrow, while the state Senate was set today to consider the antigay measure as an amendment to other adoption legislation.

Rep. Mark Pafford last month called the religious exemption bill “very close to revenge legislation,” with the revenge coming for the end of Florida’s decades-old ban on adoption by gays and lesbians. That 1977 law, a vestige of entertainer Anita Bryant’s antigay activism in the state, was struck down by a federal court in 2010, but it remains on the books although unenforceable. The House voted in February to repeal it, and observers say that action appears to be what prompted the religious exemption bill, ThinkProgress reports.

Sen. Kelli Stargell has proposed the religious exemption language as an amendment to the repeal legislation under consideration in the state Senate, notes The Florida Times Union of Jacksonville. She has also filed an amendment that would “require a ‘statewide binding’ court to find the ban on gay adoption unconstitutional for the ruling to take effect — essentially reimposing the ban,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

LGBT activists expressed outrage at the moves to allow discrimination in adoption services. “It’s outrageous, it’s discrimination in its ugliest form,” Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, told the Sentinel. “It’s even worse than Indiana because this requires taxpayers to fund discrimination.” Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign issued a joint statement today calling on lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to reject the discriminatory legislation. The ACLU has also denounced it.


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Trudy Ring