Tallahassee – The State Senate has taken a small step toward striking the outdated language that prohibits adoption by gay people in the State of Florida.
The ban has been obsolete and unenforced since 2010, when it was ruled unconstitutional. The move to scrub the gay adoption ban language is part of a larger adoption bill that provides adoption benefits to state employees and incentive payments to community-based care groups. Of the 20 pages of bill language, just a single line applies to deleting the ban on adoption by gays.
On April 8, the Florida Senate voted to consider the larger bill as it has been moved forward by the Florida House, rather than reverting to the Senate companion bill.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Don Gaetz (Destin-R), began by reviewing what the bill’s financial incentives and how they will help special needs children find homes. He then acknowledged the sentence addressing the gay adoptions ban, calling it “meaningless in fact and meaningless in the law.”
“Here’s the secret that’s not really a secret,” Gaetz said. “There are same sex adoptions going on all the time in Florida. One third of all adoptions are to single individuals. You think they’re all single moms and single dads?”
Sen. Kelli Stargel (Lakeland-R) proposed an amendment to remove the part of the bill that would strike the gay adoption ban. Gaetz expressed concern that because that would bump the bill back to the House, it would effectively kill the bill. Stargel expressed concern that striking the outdated ban language would somehow force religious adoption agencies to execute adoptions to gay people that go against their convictions. Gaetz reminded her that the ban has been obsolete for five years now and there has not been one complaint about it during that time.
Stargel also tried to argue that the issue could come up in court again and without a law on the books, Florida would be left without something to argue.
“Since that decision [that the ban on adoption by gays is unconstitutional] came out, for five years, no one, no faith based organization, no advocacy group on either side of issue, has ever suggested that it’s wrong and should be challenged,” Gaetz said. “Unless you know about a pending challenge in the Florida Supreme Court, the issue has been decided. That ship has sailed.”
Senator Maria Sachs (Delray Beach-D) said “you don’t have to be a lawyer” to know that if there hasn’t been a challenge in the five years the ban has been obsolete, it’s unlikely there will be one in the future.
“If there isn’t a problem, what are we looking for? Leave it alone,” Sachs said. “If there is an issue I can help with a child to find a loving home, as long as they give that child a loving home, then I’ll stand by that policy no matter what.”
Ultimately, Stargel’s amendment failed and the adoption bill – with the language that strikes the gay ban – will be placed on the calendar for a third and final reading.