Just when it seemed as if Florida was ready to take a slight, if not technical, step forward, it somehow ended up ready to take one giant, Indiana-style step backward.
Last month, the Florida House passed a bill that would overhaul the state's adoption and foster-care laws. The bill also officially removed language from the state's statues that banned homosexuals from adopting. That ban was ruled unconstitutional in 2010 and was no longer enforced, but it officially remained on the books. It seemed like general housekeeping swept into a larger bill concerning adoption. Lawmakers were simply removing a law that could no longer be enforced, and even many Republicans at the time didn't seem too concerned about removing the anti-gay language from the state's laws. It passed 68-50 in the Republican-dominated house.
But then social conservatives cried with outrage, and Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur filed a new adoption bill that added some new anti-gay language in the laws. Except this time those laws could actually be enforceable.
The new law allows private adoption agencies from turning away potential parents simply for "religious or moral objections." Brodeur claims it shouldn't be much of problem for gay parents. He says they can simply use another adoption agency or go through the state's Department of Children and Families.
However, gay-rights groups say the bill echo's Indiana's recent controversial "Right to Discriminate" law.
"This is Indiana-style legalized discrimination, plain and simple," Carlos Guillermo Smith of Equality Florida said in a statement. "But it's even worse, because this promotes state-sanctioned and taxpayer-funded discrimination. The legislators who voted for this bill know it's as indefensible as it is unnecessary. That's why they blocked an amendment that would have required businesses to state publicly, ‘We don't serve your kind.’"
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The bill passed in the Florida House Judiciary Committee today along party lines and will head to a vote before the full house.
The catch: The bill does not yet have a senate companion. Brodeur's original bill, the one that stripped the gay-adoption-ban language, however, does have a companion in the senate that is still making its way through committee. That version contains no language concerning either removing the state's old gay-adoption-ban language or a moral clause for religious adoption agencies.
The legislative session is expected to end May 1.