Florida House Overwhelmingly Passes Religious ‘License To Discriminate’ Adoption Bill

Think Progress, By Zack Ford, April 9

On Thursday afternoon, the Florida House of Representatives voted 75-38 to pass a bill (HB 7111) that would allow the state’s adoption agencies to engage in any kind of discrimination if serving a particular family violates its “religious or moral convictions or policies.” The state contracts with several private agencies to manage its child-placement services, some of which are religiously affiliated. Under the bill, the state could not revoke a license nor refuse any funding to these agencies based on their decision not to place children with certain families.

Unlike how the “religious freedom” bills played out in Arkansas and Indiana, proponents of Florida’s legislation were quite open during this week’s debates about the bill’s discriminatory intentions. On Wednesday, Rep. David Richardson (D) spearheaded efforts to undermine the bill with various amendments that would have carved out nondiscrimination exemptions. His first amendment would have prevented the state from funding organizations that discriminate; the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Brodeur (R) responded, “This amendment does the exact opposite of the entire bill. I was ask that you vote it down.” It was, in fact, voted down 38-78.

From there, other members introduced separate amendments carving out discrimination exemptions for specific classes: one for race, one for marital status, one for sexual orientation, one for gender, etc. Among the amendment sponsors was Rep. Janet Cruz (D), who explained, “I have a daughter who’s gay and I want to make sure she’s never discriminated against if she decides to adopt a child.” In each case, Brodeur offered a substitute amendment — each of which was identical — adding instead only the words, “An act by a private child-placing agency under this subsection does not constitute discrimination.” The substitute amendments passed every time as the House essentially voted in favor of discrimination based on all of those classes.

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