Florida House votes to take adoption ban off the books

By : Jamie Hyman
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Florida’s ban on adoption by gay people was ruled unconstitutional back in 2010, but language has stayed a part of the statue.

It looks like that may change.

Rep. David Richardson filed an amendment March 10 that would strike the gay adoption ban from state law, and the Florida House voted 68-50 in favor of approving the amendment March 11.

CS/HB 7013 was a larger adoption bill that provides adoption benefits to state employees and incentive payments to community-based care groups. Of the twenty pages of bill language, just a single line applies to deleting the ban on adoption by gays, so much of the debate before the vote focused on other aspects of the bill.

About a half dozen representatives spoke but just two of them talked about the portion of the bill related to striking the gay adoption ban language.

The first speaker on that topic was Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami Dade), who made headlines recently for his anti-transgender bill that would bar people from using restrooms that align with their gender identities. That bill has just cleared the Civil Justice Subcommittee in the state house and is awaiting its next committee agenda.

Artiles mentioned that he’s been called “horrible names” the past couple of weeks including “transphobe” and “homophobe” but wanted to speak in favor of striking gay adoption ban language.

“For years Florida has told same-sex couples they can foster but cannot give children a forever home and that is wrong,” Artiles said. ” We should make sure that the same-sex couples can legally adopt in this state and know the joy that [parenting] can bring. I’m not a homophobe, I’m not a transphobe, I’m a father, and I rise in support of this bill.”

Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) spoke at length about how difficult his decision was on the bill, calling it “one of the toughest votes I’ve made in this chamber” and stating that he stayed up all night thinking and praying. Ultimately, Baxley decided to vote in favor of the bill, but said he’s in discussions to add a “conscious clause” that would exempt adoption agencies “for those adoption agencies that it would violate their convictions to do certain types of adoptions.”

The law was first passed by the Florida Legislature in 1977 after the anti-gay “Save Our Children” campaign by Anita Bryant. A circuit appeals court upheld the ban in 2004, but a state appeals court struck it down in 2010 and gay people in Florida have been successfully adopting since then.

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