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Florida Family Action urges Gov. Scott to veto adoption bill

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Social conservatives in Florida are urging Rick Scott to veto an adoption bill because it lacks a “conscience protection” provision for faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.

CS-HB 7013 was a bill strongly supported by Senate President Andy Gardiner as the session began. It re-creates a program to provide a financial benefit of $5,000 or $10,000 to state employees who adopt foster children, as well as provide incentives to community-based care lead agencies and their subcontractors for achieving specified adoption performance standards.

But the bill became a flashpoint after Miami Beach Democrat David Richardson added an amendment early in the session that repealed the 1977 law banning same-sex adoptions in the state. Such adoptions have been legal in the state since 2010, but Richardson’s amendment would repeal that language in state law.

Once the bill passed with the repeal of the gay adoption ban included, Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur quickly introduced a new and controversial “conscience protection” bill that would allow private adoption agencies in Florida to be able to turn away same-sex couples based on religious and moral beliefs.

Called the Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies bill (SB 7111), the legislation passed in the House but found opposition in the Senate, ultimately dying in committee.

Now Florida Family Action, the socially conservative group led by John Stemberger, is telling their members via email to contact Gov. Scott to veto the adoption bill, because it doesn’t include that conscience protection.

The email lays out the following reasons why Scott should reject the legislation:

  • Faith-based adoption agencies in Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington, D.C., have already closed down due to legal attacks and litigation by homosexual groups alleging discrimination for simply preferring to place children with married mothers and fathers. To prevent this from happening in Florida, we need a “conscience protection” clause in this bill or a separate bill.  Otherwise, this bill will remain a bad bill.
  • This was a good bill originally but the amendments striking the prohibition on homosexual adoptions makes it a bad bill because this language actually provided protection for faith-based child placement agencies.
  • Florida’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is merely a balancing test and does not provide sure legal protection against many judges today who are looking for any reason to advance a social agenda.  Only express conscience protection will guard against lawsuits from local and county using “non-discrimination” ordinances, which have created a new protected class for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  These laws are being used as weapons all across America to punish Christians for simply exercising their faith.
  • The Florida Supreme Court has not yet spoken on this matter and the Florida Legislature should not act unless and until a court of the highest jurisdiction rules.  (For example, just because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California comes out with a progressive ruling, Congress does not start striking portions of the U.S. Code unless and until the U.S. Supreme Court, the court of final jurisdiction, makes a ruling.)
  • The Florida Legislature can easily pass the adoption reform bill again in the early January 2016 legislative session and resend the original good bill to the governor without the bad amendments offered by state Reps. David Richardson (D) and Matt Gaetz (R) and or adopt conscience protection language as a companion bill.

This one will be interesting to watch to see how the governor plays it.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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