Just when Florida was on the verge of getting rid of an outdated, discriminatory anti-gay adoption statute still in place, some who prefer old-fashioned ways of thinking interrupted.
Shortly after Rep. David Richardson, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, attempted to repeal the state’s unconstitutional same-sex adoption ban, a primarily Republican-supported amendment to let private agencies deny adoptions if they challenge their “religious or moral convictions” emerged, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
It’s not surprising that anti-gay sentiments may have taken root after Florida’s legalization of same-sex marriage, which might have left some conservatives feeling bitter. This action-packed discriminatory amendment not only allows a private agency to let prospective parents in on what defines a proper family, but also allows it to do so penalty-free. Furthermore, the Times article noted that the agency wouldn’t be in danger of “losing its license, public grants or contracts and the ability to participate in government programs.”
Though freedom of speech is definitely used as an excuse when it comes to the argument that businesses can deny goods and services to same-sex couples, children are not commodities, and denying eligible potential parents from adoption is selfish.
On top of that, it’s problematic for a private agency that is particularly choosy to want to have the best of both worlds and retain its public benefits.
Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the amendment is its attempt to push back the clocks. As mentioned in the Times, Florida had the worst gay adoption ban in the country since 1977 until 2010, when Frank Martin Gill, a gay man, was able to adopt his two foster sons after three years in court, and the law was deemed unconstitutional.
However, Florida still retains the statute, and despite action taken to rid the state of it, the amendment, which was approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee last week, encourages the mistakes of the past. Additionally, allowing a private agency to make decisions founded on its idea of what makes or breaks its “moral or religious convictions” gives that agency a lot of freedom to discriminate against anyone it chooses for any reason.
According to the Times, Richardson mentioned in his response to the proposal that a Christian organization could deny adoption from a Jewish family. Clearly, such blatant and permitted discrimination could extend to any other religion or dogmatic assumption about a group of people.
On a broader scale, proposals such as this one show that the fight for LGBT rights is a step-by-step process. And it’s one that can be slower in some places than in others, as another proposal in Florida would restrict the restroom one can use to one’s sex, which would not allow the trans community to enter the restroom of the gender with which they identify.
Allowing sexual identity to determine whether one is capable of caring for a child is bizarre, especially since heterosexual parenthood is not always unblemished in the first place. It’s time to stop barring progress with bigotry, and for Florida to reflect that in its laws.
Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.