In 1977, Florida banned same-sex couples from adopting. The law has not been in effect since 2010, when a state appeals court struck it down as unconstitutional. But the law was never officially removed from the books.
The bill that advanced yesterday, which is called CS/HB 7013, was introduced by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), to help create incentives to adopt children in the state's care. In early March, Rep. David Richardson introduced a proposed amendment to the bill that would also remove the antigay verbiage of the state's adoption ban.
The bill will additionally give state workers a $5,000 incentive for adopting children from the child welfare system and $10,000 for adopting those with special needs. (According to the Donaldson Adoption Institute, special-needs children include "those older than eight, minorities, those who come with a brother or sister, or have emotional or developmental disabilities.") The benefits of the proposed bill would be available for adoptions finalized on or after July 1, 2015.
Though Scott can still veto the bill, many in the LGBT community are hopeful he will sign CS/HB 7013, along with its pro-gay amendment, into law.
Former Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Destin) urged his colleagues to not be swayed by objections from conservative groups that the bill might go against the religious principles of some private, taxpayer-supported adoption agencies.
Mat Staver, founder of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, had said legislators who approved the amendment should be ashamed and removed from office because it deprives children "of ever having a mother and a father."
However, Gaetz, a Lutheran, stated that his denomination helped nearly 200 children find their "forever families" last year alone in part because it did not discriminate against same-sex couples. He said that the number of children adopted is more than three times greater than at Baptist and Catholic adoption agencies, which do not want to place children in gay or lesbian households.
Even Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami), who created controversy with his proposed transgender bathroom bill, believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.
"I do support removing the ban on same-sex couples adopting in Florida. I think it is wrong that children in our foster system are waiting for loving homes, and this ban is hurting them," he told New Times. "As a father, I support same-sex adoption because I want these children to have stable, loving forever homes, and I think times have changed, and in instances like this, we have to look at the whole picture, like how this helps children who are stuck in the system. I hope the bill becomes law this session."
"It was such a terrible discriminatory ban for Florida to still have on the books. Every child deserves a loving home with loving parents," said Broward local Vanessa Alenier, who with her wife, Melanie, has a 6-year-old son named Ethan. "It's such a great feeling that the ban is almost removed."
"I do think the governor will sign it; at this point, he isn't exactly going out on a limb," said Todd Delmay, another Broward local who with his husband, Jeff, also has an adopted son, named Blake. "But then again, this governor has proven unpredictable before. I would say I am cautiously optimistic."