Up until recently, chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes, which contains the state’s adoption laws, was explicitly anti-gay. Chapter 63 and adoption case law stated that whether prospective parents could adopt a child should be based on the best interests of the child, with one exception.
That exception was laid out in Florida Statutes section 63.042(3) (2014), which provided that “No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.”
Even after that law was deemed unconstitutional by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals in 2010 (see In re the Adoption of XXG and NRG), and successive attorneys general did not attempt to enforce the law, it remained on the books up until a few months ago. Finally, in the last legislative session, the legislature passed a bill to strip the anti-gay language from Florida’s adoption statutes, and Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law.
This is certainly a great step towards equal family law rights. However, in the current legislative session, state Representative Julio Gonzalez of Venice has introduced a Right to Discriminate Bill that permits, among other things, adoption agencies to refuse to place a child with same-sex couples.
House Bill 401 says that “A private child-placing agency licensed under part I of chapter 409 is not required to perform, assist in, recommend, consent to, or participate in the placement of a child that would be contrary to the religious or moral convictions of policies of the agency. Such an agency or a person connected thereto is not liable for such refusal, and such refusal does not form the basis for any disciplinary or other recriminatory action against such an agency or a person connected thereto.”
If passed, this bill would give adoption agencies the right to discriminate in a way that the courts can no longer do. And all agencies would have to say to avoid liability is that they have a policy not to work with gay and lesbian individuals.
Florida has taken strides towards family equality. House Bill 401 would be a stumble backwards.