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Florida Lawmakers OK Discriminating Against Gay Adoptions on “Religious” Grounds

| April 3, 2015

Not so fast, Florida. (Purple Sherbet Photography)

Not so fast, Florida. (Purple Sherbet Photography)

Despite warnings that Florida would follow Indiana into a controversy with statewide economic implications, the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would allow private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

The committee passed the measure (HB 7111) by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, providing what it calls “conscience protection” for private agencies whose “religious or moral convictions” do not permit the children in their care to be adopted by gays or lesbians.

“What we are saying in this bill, very narrowly crafted for the handful of private adoption agencies that have a written moral or religious exemption, is that they cannot have that be a basis for damages or for retribution,” Brodeur said.

The proposal surfaced two weeks ago, shortly after the House passed a bill (HB 7013) that would provide incentives for state workers to adopt children from foster care. That measure also repealed part of state law that in the past banned same-sex couples from adopting.

Florida banned gay adoption until five years ago, when an appeals court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional. Since then, the state hasn’t challenged such adoptions, but the ban has remained in law.

The adoption-incentives bill would change that — and its passage sparked a backlash.

For instance, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said he heard from a faith-based adoption agency that received a request to place a child with a homosexual — its first such request in nine years — within 20 hours of the passage of HB 7013.

“Knowing these people, and knowing they believe in the sanctity of marriage, of one man and one woman, they will be one day faced with a choice,” Plakon said. “Either shut down … or do something that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. I know these people — they will not be able to continue.”

Brodeur pointed to Catholic Charities of Boston and San Francisco, which stopped providing adoption services in 2006 rather than comply with state anti-discrimination laws.

He added that the majority of Florida’s 82 private adoption agencies allow placements with same-sex couples.

“This does not have any prohibition on whether or not gay couples can adopt in Florida,” Brodeur said. “If you are a gay couple, and you would like to adopt, go to one of the majority of those 82 private agencies, go to the state, go to (the Department of Children and Families).”

But Jim Akin, executive director of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, pointed to 859 children awaiting adoption statewide.

“Any bill that puts up any barriers, that’s going to decrease the opportunities for these children to be adopted, is bad policy,” Akin said.

He added that social workers are bound by an ethical code that prohibits them from practicing discrimination, which could force them to “follow their code of ethics or get another job.”

Public comment at the hearing included several families in which same-sex couples have been foster parents or adopted children from foster care. Amanda Williams, a lesbian foster parent from Gainesville, said she and her wife had fostered more than 20 at-risk teens, usually gay and lesbian.

“One of the biggest things that concerns me about this bill is that youth aren’t able to pick the agency that represents them,” Williams said. She acknowledged that prospective parents can go elsewhere — “but the youth can’t.”

“This bill will allow state-sanctioned discrimination against gay folks who want to adopt,” Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, said. “We should be thanking them and blessing them.” If private agencies can’t live with allowing gays to adopt, he said, “then get the heck out of that business.”

The bill passed 12-3 on a party-line vote. But opponents warned that if it became law, Florida could suffer the same sort of economic boycott now aimed at Indiana over a law allowing businesses to deny services to gays.

“This bill is even worse than Indiana’s,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith of the pro-gay advocacy group Equality Florida. “This threatens Florida’s tourism-based economy.”

Even if the House ultimately passes the bill, however, it’s unclear whether the Senate would consider it. The Senate does not have a similar bill.

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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22 Responses for “Florida Lawmakers OK Discriminating Against Gay Adoptions on “Religious” Grounds”

  1. Sherry Epley says:

    Again, discriminatory religious principles thrusted into legislation! These are all symptoms of the same thing, a back lash against the freedoms and rights of those who do not subscribe to and live their lives according to Christian dogma. This is a prime example of the necessity of separation between church and state! No one should be using the long arm of the law to legislate and impose upon the general populace the rules of their religion!

    • YankeeExPat says:

      Correct Ms. Eply

      All these children need is Love and Security. Sexual orientation doesn’t (shouldn’t) disqualify anyone from providing that.

  2. A.S.F. says:

    Yes, these lawmakers and Conservatives love children so much, they would deny a potentially good home to a child who is without one on the basis of THEIR prejudiced attitudes towards Gay people in general. That’s a really valid and CHRISTIAN reason to keep a child homeless. Not.

  3. Jon says:

    Thankfully this passed!! Private groups should not be forced to do something that they do not agree with. Do I think gays should be able to get married?? Sure…just dont FORCE my church to conduct the wedding…and dont FORCE me to have to participate in any way. Should a gay couple be allowed to attend a church…or not attend?? Absolutely!! There are other adoption agencies that will be open to gay adoptions. Freedom works both ways.

  4. Flatsflyer says:

    Put all Religious Organizations under the control of the EPA. Someone needs to stop the Religious Pollution. Maybe having laws that protect me from this pollution would result is the assholes who put bumper stickers on their cars, knock on my door, put up billboards, etc. could be charged with assault at least littering.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the activities you describe are God-given rights protected under the first amendment, specifically the portion referencing “freedom of speech.” It’s interesting how you and your ilk will militantly, though incorrectly reference the constitution when citing the “wall of separation between church and state” to justify denying citizens of their rights to practice their religion, yet complain when others exercise their freedoms guaranteed by the founding document.

  5. Outsider says:

    The lawmakers are not thrusting their views on anyone; they are protecting the right to practice religion and live by it’s tenets.

  6. confidential says:

    Stop voting conservatives as they have too many extremist among them. Star right now in this special election and vote 2 good family men and southern Democrats David Cox and Adam Morley. If you care for your kids education and your families, to support local small businesses that create jobs, the protection and promotion of our local resources, the equal and fair treatment of all including minorities, then vote Cox and Morley.

  7. Nikia says:

    Religious freedom needs to be protected or else we become Syria or Kenya. That being said Andy Warhol was one of the best Catholics out there and no one would have guessed that. This discussion is way too polar on both sides.

    • Nancy N. says:

      The so-called “religious freedom” that the conservative right is really asking for is what will turn us into Syria or Kenya. Ever heard the term “Christian Dominionism”? I suggest you educate yourself on that movement if you haven’t. All of these people asking for “freedom” really only want the freedom to force their beliefs on others. Some are even of the belief that those who don’t believe like them should be executed.

      Yeah, that’s “freedom” all right.

  8. A.S.F. says:

    @Outsider says–They are allowing the law to act as an enabling mechanism for some citizens, with a specific bias supported only by their religious beliefs, to prevent others from enjoying the same rights and freedoms they do.

    • Outsider says:

      Wrong. You don’t have a right to a wedding cake made by a devout Catholic, Baptist, or Muslim. You don’t have the right to force a photographer to take pictures of your gay wedding. You do have the right to shop elsewhere. What you refer to as a specific bias supported “only” by their religious beliefs is exactly what the constitution protects, the free exercise of religion.

      • Nancy N. says:

        Your right to free exercise stops where it infringes on another person’s rights.

        Let’s take the word “gay” out of this, and say someone’s religion says that they can’t serve anyone who is Jewish. Or black. Should Jews or Blacks be required to go somewhere else because someone’s religious rights are offended by their presence? Or do they only have the right to do that to gay people?

        As for the right to go shop elsewhere….that isn’t possible depending on where you live. What if every business in town (or the only one) turns you away?

  9. ted bundy says:

    under no circumstances should gays be allowed to adopt..PERIOD

  10. Sherry E says:

    Let’s remember that over 50% of the people in the world passionately believe in and practice religions that are NOT Christian. Many of those people happen to live in the Middle East/Africa, in Syria and Kenya, as well as Israel. So when we discuss “religion” , perhaps we should specify it as “Christianity”. . . if that is appropriate.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all could use only the “loving”,” inclusive”, “forgiving” tenants of ALL religious teachings as a moral compass for our lives and for creating a system of justice that treats EVERY human being EXACTLY the same. . . regardless of what goes on in their bedroom, the color of their skin, their income, their gender, their language, their cultural heritage, etc. etc.?

    It is the “rules” of men, injected into religious tomes, that seek to- and have been successful in- controlling/dividing us and pitting us against ourselves. . . often in horrific ways. And, therefore, ironically against the core “positive, loving” belief system itself.

    Using any religious words or rules to act in an “unloving” and discriminatory way against ANY other human being should be recognized to be against the teachings of any loving creator or higher spiritual entity. Therefore, creating laws based on any “negative”, “divisive”, “unloving”, “unforgiving”, “unaccepting” religious rules should be considered offensive to the creator/higher spiritual entity and unacceptable to our species.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Let’s be realistic. Some people just will never want to focus on the positive aspects. A lot of the problem is that evil people actually seek out the darker elements of religion and use it as a shield to justify their own personal issues with bigotry, misogony, and other hatred. These people aren’t evil because of their religion – they turn their religion evil to make their baser instincts appear moral.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Eloquent and so on the mark, Sherry E!

  12. Chuck says:

    time to start taxing all the churches…….

    I dont know why they get a free ride from the US taxpayers.

  13. Lancer says:

    …and some people will never understand that homosexuality will never be accepted. Tolerance is the there and is all these proponents should want.

  14. Sherry E says:

    Thank you anonymous! You are very kind!

    Unfortunately, you are so right Nancy N. . . as evidenced by some of the comments here.

    I, and many many others ACCEPT the love between 2 people, regardless of their gender! Anyone saying otherwise should specify that they are only speaking for themselves, because they certainly are NOT speaking for me and many of those with whom I am proud to associate


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