Last week, the Florida House voted to repeal the state's unconstitutional ban on gay adoption. But on Thursday, a bill that would allow both secular and faith-based adoption agencies that receive money from the state to turn down whatever groups of families from adopting that they see fit, passed a Florida House committee.
Essentially, the proposed bill would allow faith-based adoption agencies to turn down families based on sexual orientation and martial status, or even political orientation and religion. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Jason Brodeur — who is also the House Health & Human Services Chairman — doesn't specifically mention same-sex couples but, if it were to pass, would clearly affect same-sex couples looking to adopt.
The state banned same-sex couple from adopting in 2010, but last week, the GOP-dominated House acknowledged that it was unconstitutional, and voted to repeal the ban.
But critics of the repeal — Republicans, mostly — argued that the lifting of the ban would force some agencies to shut their doors rather than comply and allow gay couples to adopt. Broduer is one of those critics.
Broduer has argued that his bill would keep many faith-based adoption agencies and churches that organize adoptions from closing up shop and, in essence, start a crisis where children are left without a home.
Before Thursday's vote, Broduer acknowledged that these agencies could discriminate against same-sex couples, but said that “they could just go to another agency."
Critics of the bill spoke out too.
“How in the world could you vote for a bill that would discriminate against anyone who is qualified, no matter what their religion, their sexual orientation, the color of their hair when they come in?" asked Barbara DeVane of the National Organization for Women prior to the vote. "How could anyone have the right to discriminate against these children who need a loving home?”
Michelle Richardson of the ACLU of Florida also spoke out, saying that when an agency chooses to accept tax dollars to help families adopt children, that agency needs to act appropriately and professionally, and in the best interest of the child.
“The bill before you today will allow private agencies to put their own private beliefs ahead of the children they are obligated to serve," she said. "It allows these groups to put their religious mission and purpose first, ahead of the needs of the children they’re supposed to be placing.”
Currently there are an estimated 4,000 children in the state's foster care system eligible for adoption. And Equality Florida's Carlos Guillermo said the state should simply focus on getting those kids into good homes, regardless of a couple's sexual orientation, or religion.
“Florida should be encouraging adoption of needy children by loving families,” Guillermo said. "Not empowering state-contracted agencies to arbitrarily refuse placement of a child with an otherwise qualified couple, due to the religious or moral beliefs of a state-contracted agency. Doing so would greatly exacerbate the shortage we already have of available families, and it works against the vulnerable children awaiting adoption or placement in Florida."
Guillermo added that the bill would simply five any agency receiving state money a free license to discriminate.
Rep. Katie Edwards of Sunrise recapped the bill's consequences it succinctly, rhetorically asking, “So as a single Jewish woman who was raised Catholic, I do not qualify to adopt a child?”
Broduer defended the bill by citing examples of agencies in Boston, San Francisco and Illinois shutting down their adoption services over state requirements that allowed same-sex couples to adopt.
The vote ended being split down the party-line, and the polarizing bill was approved by the House Health & Human Services Committee on a 12-6 vote.
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