Florida House to have final vote on anti-gay adoption bill

By : Jeremy Williams
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Tallahassee – The Florida House placed an Indiana-style anti-gay adoption bill on its third reading after nearly 3 hours of debate over 26 proposed amendments and sub-amendments.

The Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies (House Bill 7111) would allow privately owned adoption agencies, whether they receive state funds or not, to deny a couple or individual from adopting based on religious or moral convictions.

The bulk of the debate was between Rep. Jason Brodeur (Sanford-R), the bill’s sponsor, and Rep. David Richardson (Miami-Dade-D) as they argued whether this bill was about religious freedom or allowing discrimination to be legalized.

“This bill is for protection of an agency’s religious beliefs,” said Brodeur. “It is a shield, not a sword.”

The proposed amendments to the bill would have offered non-discrimination protections based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. All amendments were countered by sub-amendments by Brodeur.

“My amendment affirms and supports our religious liberties afforded by the constitution,” said Brodeur repeatedly after every proposed sub-amendment.

All sub-amendments proposed were approved, with votes straight down party lines. The House is made up of 82 Republicans and 27 Democrats.

Richardson, along with 10 other Democrats, proposed amendments they hoped would narrow a bill many consider to be too vague.

“This bill is so broad that you would be limiting the number of people who could adopt because you maximize an agency’s ability to discriminate,” said Richardson.

Rep. Katie Edwards (Sunrise-D) was concerned the bill would allow agencies to discriminate, based on things like sexuality and race, against individuals and couples who wanted to adopt. She said it’s especially troubling when those agencies, private or not, accept state funds.

“These are actors of the state,” said Edwards, “performing a state function, so this becomes state- sanctioned discrimination.”
Brodeur seemed unprepared to answer the questions his colleagues had about the bill.

Rep. Evan Jenne (Hollywood-D) asked how many adoptions are handled by private agencies.

“I don’t know,” Brodeur replied.

“Of all the private agencies in the state of Florida,” said Richardson, “does each county have one or several in case a couple has to go to another agency?”

“I’m not sure about that,” said Brodeur.

After the debate, the only amendments adopted into the bill where the ones proposed by Brodeur.

“The House today demonstrated that it values the ability to discriminate over the needs of our State’s most vulnerable children,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU Director of Florida Public Policy, in a media release. “In rejecting common-sense amendments that would have prohibited discrimination and made explicit that the interests of the child must be the primary consideration in any foster or adoptive placement, the House has proven that this bill has never been about protecting children.”

According to the ACLU, the final House vote is expected on April 9.

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