Dark Day in Sunshine State: Florida House Votes for Discrimination, Against Interests of Children

by HRC Staff

Equality Florida and HRC Urge Gov. Rick Scott To Take Stand Against Anti-LGBT Adoption Measure That Endorses Taxpayer-funded Discrimination

WASHINGTON - Today, Equality Florida, the civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, condemned a vote by the Florida House that embraces a virulently anti-LGBT adoption measure that would use state taxpayer money to discriminate against LGBT and a host of other qualified foster and adoptive parents.

“This is a sad day for Florida, for its residents, and especially for the more than 14,000 children in the state waiting for a loving foster family or adoptive parents,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “We urge Gov. Rick Scott to publicly denounce this blatantly discriminatory measure that would, as GOP state Sen. Don Gaetz warned yesterday would turn back the social clock in Florida.”

Thursday’s House vote sends an ugly message about Florida, whether it becomes law or not,” said Nadine Smith, chief executive of Equality Florida. “As other states such as Indiana have learned, discriminatory laws under the false guise of religious freedom are widely criticized. They are unfair and unjust, and they also hurt a state’s economy.”

The 75-38 vote by the Florida House advances a measure that would enshrine discrimination rights into Florida law by allowing any private adoption agency -- both secular and religious, including agencies that receive taxpayer dollars -- to discriminate against qualified prospective parents based on the agency's religious or political beliefs, including those regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, people of other religions, and even support for the Second Amendment.

On Wednesday, the Florida Senate, after a historic floor debate led by Gaetz, a  former Senate president, decisively rejected a similar measure.

“We commend the senators who stopped this discriminatory amendment,” HRC’s Warbelow said. “Fair-minded Floridians know that children should be given every chance at a loving forever home, and reject this toxic and discriminatory legislation."

 “Thankfully, the Senate on Wednesday pulled us back from the brink of embarrassment that Indiana has recently faced. Now is not the time to turn back the clock to 1977,” said Smith, of Equality Florida. “Instead, we must move forward to approve a state law that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.”

 The House measure strips qualified, prospective parents of legal recourse if they’ve been discriminated against and prohibits the state from withholding taxpayer money from discriminatory agencies. One of the cruelest consequences of the bill is that it would allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their extended families - a practice often considered to be in the best interest of the child - based on the relative’s marital situation, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.  A loving, unmarried grandparent, for example, or a stable, welcoming relative of a different faith could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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