When it comes to the rights of same-sex couples in Florida, it appears that while the judicial system has been taking one step forward, some lawmakers are taking two steps back.
In January, Florida courts made same-sex marriage legal, but now at least one Florida lawmaker is trying to make it more difficult for same-sex couples to start a family.
Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, Florida is sponsoring a bill that would allow private adoption agencies to refuse gay couples based on religious or moral grounds.
According to news reports, Brodeur’s proposed bill ( HB 7011 ) surfaced not long after the Florida House passed a bill ( HB 7013 ) that repealed part of a state law that had banned same-sex couples from adopting.
Florida banned gay adoption until a few years ago when an appeals court ruled the ban unconstitutional. While the state hadn’t challenged same-sex adoptions, the prohibition remained on the books.
According to the National Association of Social Workers, there are more than 850 children statewide waiting to be adopted. The proposed law opens a Pandora’s box and could result in not only keeping same-sex couples from adopting, but we could conceivably see a private Christian adoption agency refuse to allow a Jewish couple to adopt or vice versa. What’s next? Could banning an adoption based on the color of one’s skin be far behind?
The good news is that there is no similar companion bill to Brodeur’s pending in the Florida Senate, making it unlikely that it will pass. However, that could change, depending on the mood in Tallahassee.
Not only should capable and loving prospective parents be allowed the opportunity to adopt, but every child should be lucky enough to have one or two people who love them and want to create a permanent family with them.
Private agencies should not be able to deprive children of that opportunity by selecting who the agency feels should be allowed to become parents based on moral or religious beliefs. While I believe that people and businesses have the right of association and choice, in this instance the best interest of the child should come first.
Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.
Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
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