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Marion County Republican Party condemns Dennis Baxley, two other lawmakers for vote on gay adoption

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The Marion County Republican Executive Committee on Monday night approved a resolution criticizing House Republicans Dennis Baxley, Charlie Stone and Marlene O’Toole for their votes in support of an amendment last week that would repeal the 38-year ban on same-sex adoption in Florida.

Committee members said that the three representatives’ support of the measure was a direct rebuke to the Republican Party of Florida platform, and they’re calling on the lawmakers to not only rescind their vote immediately, but to work to make sure that it’s not approved in the Senate and becomes enshrined in state law.

The resolution says that with their support for the gay adoption bill, the three lawmakers who represent a portion of Marion County have violated their oaths stated in the GOP platform that protects children in the Florida foster care system. “There is no reason to introduce homosexual adoption, the least desirable environment in which to raise children,” the resolution reads. It says that their votes “are an affront to, and a violation of, our GOP Platform and general values.”

As Florida Politics reported on Sunday, state Rep. Baxley said that he began having second thoughts about his affirmative vote last Thursday, the day after the measure passed in the Florida House 68-50. He then went and changed his vote quietly on Friday evening.

Randy Osborne, the chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, says what made Baxley’s vote even more infuriating is that it was preceded by a speech that persuaded other Republicans to side with him.

“The damage is done,” Osborne says, not very impressed that Baxley reversed his vote two days later. “I know several representatives who support the bill because of his speech on the floor, and that’s what’s so damaging to this. It doesn’t change the board. Once it’s locked, it’s done. You cannot take that back.”

But in fact Marion County Republicans are demanding that Stone and O’Toole follow Baxley’s reversal and go ahead and rescind their votes as well.

Another Marion County Republican who wished not to have his name used in this story said that while a few people were aware of the vote, the majority of those in attendance were not and “were incredulous.”

The amendment to repeal the ban is in many ways purely symbolic. The state’s ban on gay adoption was overturned by a court back in 2010. Since then, state officials have declined to enforce the ban, but it has remained in Florida Statutes.

But Osborne says that once the law goes into the books, it will deleteriously affect many faith-based organizations around the state, which he said would have to shut down because their religious beliefs would no longer allow them to operate.

None of the three representatives who were singled out were in attendance, but Inverness state Rep. Jimmie T. Smith. Smith is running for the state Senate District 5 seat next year. That’s the same seat that Baxter has also said he intends to run for.

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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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