Florida Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill Enabling Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination Dangerously Close To Passing

by Stephen Peters

The discriminatory bill puts anti-LGBT bias above best interest of children

WASHINGTON - Today, Equality Florida, the statewide civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, called on lawmakers to abandon an anti-LGBT bill that will enable discrimination -- with taxpayer dollars -- against prospective LGBT foster and adoptive parents, and place children seeking a permanent home at continued risk.

Not even a week after protests of passage of a broad religious refusal bill in Indiana, lawmakers in Florida are poised to put the state in harm's way by passing a religious refusal bill for adoption service providers. This discriminatory legislation, proposed as an amendment, is being considered on a Senate bill (SB 320/HB 7013) that’s being heard on the Senate floor today. If this amendment passes, the bill including this anti-LGBT language could receive final passage in the Senate as early as today. The Florida House of Representatives is also scheduled to hear HB 7111, the anti-LGBT adoption bill, on the floor today and vote for passage tomorrow.

“This measure allows prejudice to replace the best interest of the child as the standard for deciding who can best provide a forever home for children in foster care,” said Nadine Smith, head of Equality Florida. “This bill forces taxpayers to fund discrimination and it sends a message about Florida as a place that is unwelcoming and discriminatory towards LGBT people. That’s what Indiana and Arkansas became, and that’s where Florida is heading if Governor Rick Scott doesn’t force the legislature to tap the breaks or veto this bill outright.”

“This attack on LGBT Floridians and their families is shameful and will deny children the loving and caring homes they so desperately need,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “There should be no doubt whatsoever that discrimination against LGBT people with taxpayer dollars is wrong. Florida legislators should immediately abandon this senseless and deplorable effort.”

The anti-LGBT bill would enshrine discrimination rights into Florida law by allowing any private adoption agency -- both secular and religious, and including agencies that receive taxpayer dollars -- to discriminate against prospective parents based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as on family status, and religious or political beliefs.

The bill strips 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.

Research shows that Florida, like Indiana, is already paying an economic penalty by failing to protect its LGBT residents and visitors. An economic study released last week showed that Florida businesses lose $362-million a year because of the state’s lack of a uniform anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Passing this bill clearly moves Florida backwards by enshrining taxpayer funded discrimination into state law.

According to a report by the Williams Institute about the anti-LGBT adoption bill, LGB individuals or same-sex couples in Florida are raising approximately 2,460 adopted children and 160 foster children. The report states, “If those 160 foster children were to be adopted by their foster families next year, the state could save more than $1 million by not keeping them in the foster care system.”

On behalf of the children of the state who deserve loving and caring homes, Equality Florida and HRC continue to call on fair-minded legislators and Governor Rick Scott to stop this blatantly discriminatory effort.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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