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Florida Legislature Repeals Gay Adoption Ban

dads and daughter
Elvert Barnes

The Florida Legislature has thrown out the state’s ban on gay adoption.

Tuesday’s vote in the Florida Senate came after fierce debate over repealing the ban.

Adoption by same-sex couples already happens in the Sunshine State after a court overturned the gay-adoption ban five years ago. Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) is sponsoring the repeal to bring state law in line. Gaetz says it also gives special-needs foster kids the best shot at adoption.

Gaetz said, “There’s no evidence anywhere by anybody that anything in this bill will do anything other than give children a chance for their dreams to come true.”

The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 27 to 11. Those arguing against it said they’re concerned religious adoption agencies would close shop rather than comply. One of those opposed was Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon).

“We do have a group of people out there who believe very strongly that their business model should not force them to defy their own religious principles,” Lee said.

The repeal was part of a much larger adoption-related bill that reinstates the state's incentive program giving money to state employees who adopt children out of foster care. That financial incentive was stopped during the Great Recession a few years back. Now Gov. Scott must decide whether the incentive program should be reinstated along with the repeal of the gay-adoption ban.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, opponents accused Gaetz of "hijacking" the incentive bill with a controversial issue. 

At the same time the repeal heads to Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida House has passed a measure with a “conscience clause” allowing adoption agencies to refuse prospective parents based on religious or moral convictions. Critics worry the broad measure would effectively condone many types of discrimination, including against gay, unmarried and Jewish parents.

Photo credit: Father and Daughters by Elvert Barnes is used under CC BY 2.0

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP