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Florida Senate passes adoption bill to assist public employees in some adoptions

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The Florida Senate today passed an adoption bill today that would provide financial assistance to public employees to encourage them to adopt foster and special needs children in the Sunshine State who need parents.

Sponsored by Niceville Republican Don Gaetz, the bill survived serious opposition led by Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel, who seized on a provision in a bill passed in the House of Representatives that would repeal the ban on same-sex adoptions, something that has been effectively the law for the past five years in Florida but has sprung up this session.

(That’s led to a new bill that continues to move through the House that would grant private adoption agencies religious protections, a so-called “conscience protection” bill that Democrats and others call discriminatory.)

“You know how many other states have that?” Gaetz asked his Senate colleagues regarding ban on same-sex adoptions. “None.”

He went on to say that since the 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled that the 1977 ban on gay adoption was unconstitutional in 2010, not one faith-based agency has had to stop doing business, saying the fears from the religious right were overblown.

“Since that decision came out, not one faith-based organization has ever suggested that it was wrong and needed to be challenged.” He said amendments proposed by Stargel weren’t just unfriendly, but would kill the bill outright.

And he said her concerns that another court in Florida would overturn the DCA’s ruling were unfounded.

The legislation (SB 320) from Sen. Gaetz would provide $10,000 for public employees to adopt a  special needs child, because those children often come with complicated medical conditions and demand resources. An employee adopting a child without special needs would benefit from a $5,000 state grant.

But Stargel was undeterred after having her first amendment denied, and proposed a second amendment that would deny sex offenders the opportunity to adopt children in Florida. But Gaetz said state statute already covered that provision. That amendment went down on a voice vote.

Gaetz also said that passing any of Stargel’s amendments would kill the bill in the House. That raised the ire of Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, who said that while he was backing Gaetz, he was outraged that the state’s upper body in the Legislature would take their marching orders from the House, prompting Delray Beach Democrat Maria Sachs to quip that it must be a male thing to act so territorial.

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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