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Bill to allow gay foster parents to adopt doesn’t have the votes

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Bill to allow gay foster parents to adopt doesn’t have the votes

Jan Pudlow
Senior Editor

A proposal to allow gay foster parents to adopt the children they care for received its first public hearing since Florida’s anti-gay parenting law was first enacted in 1977.

It was standing-room only at the Senate Children & Families Committee on February 14, where 19 people — including gay and lesbian parents, foster parents, foster children, national children’s advocates, sociologists, and researchers — testified why the bill was in the best interests of children.

But before there was a vote on SB 172, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, asked that her bill be temporarily passed because she knew she didn’t have the votes.

“I really believe it is time to change this discriminatory statute. Unfortunately, and this pains me, I do not have the votes to pass this bill at this time,” Rich said. “But I believe that we have begun an important dialog. We have heard people share their life experiences and how this discriminatory law impacts not only them but children in our communities.”

After thanking those who testified for opening up their “hearts and lives,” Rich said: “You know, in 1977, the Florida Legislature passed the law that we are looking at today, prohibiting all gay people from adopting children. At that time, and probably still, it is the most sweeping anti-gay parenting law in the country. I believe the law was born out of bigotry and prejudice. It is devoid of any basis in social science and contradicts public policy on child welfare. It denies children and adults constitutional rights. And it jeopardizes the best interests of children.

“.. . I have learned in this process that all good things take time. We will continue to educate people and hear from people like you.. . . Those of us who support this bill are going to need your help, to continue to educate people about why we need to change the law in the state of Florida. We need to do what’s right for the children of our state. The bill’s time will come. But unfortunately, it is not going to come today.”

SB 172, sponsored by Rich with co-introducers Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, and Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Bay Harbor Island, would have allowed homosexual foster parents to adopt the children they already care for if a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence it would be in the best interests of the child. (A similar companion bill, HB 123, was filed by Rep. Sheri McInvale, R-Orlando; and co-sponsored by Rep. Mary Brandenburg, D-Palm Beach; Rep. Faye Culp, R-Tampa; Rep. Ken Gottlieb, D-Miramar; Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs; Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Dania Beach; Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton; and Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, but has not yet been heard in the House.)

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, offered a more restrictive amendment that would require the child live with the foster parents for two years before being considered for adoption by the court, and would also require recommendations from the Department of Children and Families district administrator.

“However, I understand that Sen. Rich would prefer that I not do this amendment,” Lynn said. “So Mr. Chairman, in respect to Sen. Rich, I will withdraw it.”

Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, the committee’s chair, said gay foster parent adoption is an issue that must be brought up and he said Sen. President Tom Lee gave him permission to debate the issue.

“It’s not like you can put your head in the sand and say there’s not many, many good foster parents that are gay that are not raising their children in a loving, happy, spiritual relationship,” Campbell said. “.. . I personally would love to have the full Senate and the full House take this up.”

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