Yesterday the Republican-dominated Florida House supported a bill that would officially remove Florida's gay adoption ban from the state's statutes.
The anti-gay adoption law, which was introduced in 1977, has not been in effect since 2010, when a state appeals court struck it down as unconstitutional. At the time, former Gov. Crist did not choose to appeal the court's decision, believing it to be correct, but the law was never officially removed from the books.
"The truth is this has been hanging over everyone's head," said Todd Delmay, who with his husband Jeff were among the very first same-sex couples married in the Sunshine State. "I'm hopeful that it will go away. While laws that are overturned and no longer enforced have no power of law, they still remain as a vestige of bigotry and malicious treatment of gay families."
Just months before the state court overturned the anti-gay law, the Delmays, who live in Broward, felt intimidated by the adoption ban because they were in the process of adopting their now 5-year-old son Blake.
Two days ago, Rep. David Richardson introduced the proposed amendment to remove the anti-gay verbiage of the adoption ban before a House committee which allowed it to move forward to yesterday's vote on the floor. Though a significant portion of Republicans voted against the bill (none argued against it), many of them supported it.
"Promoting adoptions is one of the most meaningful ways we can strengthen families and provide our most vulnerable children with loving homes," said Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. "Chair Brodeur's (who sponsored the bill) hard work today has made it easier to find loving homes for hundreds of children in foster care."
Some conservatives are upset that legislators approved the amendment so swiftly.
"Republican leadership have completely by-passed the committee process and public notice and debate," commented John Stemberger, the director of the Florida Family Policy Council, this week.
Mat Staver, the founder of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, believes that legislators who voted in favor of the amendment should be ashamed and removed from office because it deprives children "of ever having a mother and a father."
However, the amendment, which still needs to by approved by the Florida Senate and Gov. Scott to pass, is part of a larger bill called HB 7013 that has been specifically drafted in the spirit of helping children in the state's care find their "forever families."
"[The amendment] is part of a bigger package bill meant to provide more incentives overall for families to adopt," said Todd. "Expanding this to include same sex families by eliminating dead language was just a bonus."
The bill would give state workers a $5,000 incentive for adopting children from the child welfare system, and $10,000 for adopting those with special needs. The benefits of the proposed bill would be available for adoptions finalized on or after July 1, 2015.
According to the Donaldson Adoption Institute, when it comes to adoption, special needs children include "those older than eight, minorities, those who come with a brother or sister, or have emotional or developmental disabilities."Musician and former Miss Oklahoma Anita Bryant led the Save Our Children campaign during the late 70s which led to the state's ban of gay adoption.
Though LGBT rights activists believe the likelihood is very slim that the dormant gay adoption ban would be revived in the future, this amendment would permanently nix the words of the 1977 law.
The Delmays are excited and confident the law may officially be removed soon, especially since recent court rulings have affirmed the dignity of same-sex families.
"It is a fundamental right to be able to freely choose the people you decide to make a life with, and the children that our families hold dearest are always at the center of what we do," concluded Todd. "In the end I think everything [will be] fine, but words matter. Laws matter. And who we are as a people is written not just in deeds but in words. It's time to move on, and time to remove the words [of the gay adoption ban]."
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