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Florida flagYesterday, after hours of heated testimony and questioning, the Florida Senate Rules Committee postponed a vote on a controversial bill.

Yesterday, after hours of heated testimony and questioning, the Florida Senate Rules Committee postponed a vote on a controversial bill that would allow state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT prospective parents on religious grounds.  The bill has already passed the state House of Representatives.

Republican Senator David Simmons, the Senate’s powerful Rules Chair, was flanked by high-ranking Republulican leaders like former Senate President Don Gaetz and likely incoming Senate President Jack Latvala as they highlighted issues with the legislation that has become a lightning rod for both children's welfare and civil rights advocates.

After nearly two hours of public testimony and questioning, the committee hearing ended without a vote and with a motion from Democratic Senator Darren Soto to “temporarily postpone” the bill, a maneuver that has made further action on the bill unlikely this year. 

Procedurally, to bring a bill back from a motion to “temporarily postpone” requires a series of votes that are unlikely, if not politically impossible, in the final weeks of Florida’s legislative session. Yesterday's hearing was a sign that the Florida Senate doesn’t have an appetite for the controversial legislation. 

HRC has been working closely with Equality Florida and major adoption and children's welfare organizations to advocate against passage of HB 7111.  The bill would have allowed taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents based on the agency's religious or political beliefs, including beliefs about sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, and even political party.

In the lead-up to House passage of the bill, the Child Welfare League of America, Donaldson Adoption Institute, North American Council on Adoptable Children, and Voice for Adoption issued a joint statement supporting LGBT parents and opposing "any federal, state, or agency laws or policies that prohibit or discriminate against any qualified individuals and couples from becoming parents due to philosophical or religious beliefs."

Last week, the HRC Foundation and major children's welfare organizations added a critical voice to the debate over Florida's HB 7111 and more than 100 other anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures this year.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Education Association joined the HRC Foundation in issuing a statement that reads, in part, "We are organizations that differ in size, scope, and mission, yet we are strongly united on this: anti-LGBT bills send extremely harmful messages to LGBT youth, and present a substantial risk for discrimination in key areas that are essential to all of our organizational missions." 

The Florida legislature is expected to adjourn for the year in the next two weeks.

Filed under: Adoption, Parenting

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