Written by Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida's Public Policy Specialist
On June 11th, we received some pretty incredible news when Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7013 into law, and finally put an end to the 1977 ban on gay adoption ruled unconstitutional by our courts. Thanks to openly-gay State Representative David Richardson, who spearheaded the amendment that added the repeal language to an otherwise unrelated adoption bill, we can finally put this issue to rest... hopefully.
We should all be thrilled that this ugly chapter in Florida’s history is finally behind us. It was certainly past time for this state to move beyond its Anita Bryant era of discrimination and intolerance.
But many folks were surprised by the governor’s signing of this bill and I don’t blame them. We can’t exactly say Rick Scott has been an advocate for LGBT equality. If the fact, we can probably say just the opposite.
Here’s some important context that explains why Governor Scott signed HB 7013 into law:
- HB 7013 had mostly NOTHING to do with gay adoption. It was introduced as a way to help special needs kids in Florida’s child welfare system find a forever home with a qualified adoptive parent or parents. The bill provided incentives in the form of state subsidies to prospective parents looking to adopt our most vulnerable children to assist with the very real financial costs of raising a child with unique abilities. The language inserted into the bill repealing the 1977 ban on gays adopting has not been enforced by the courts since it was declared unconstitutional many years ago. The removal of this language should not have been controversial, but well resourced hate groups made it so regardless.
- Governor Scott issued a signing statement shortly after signing HB 7013 that sets the stage for future attempts to re-enshrine discrimination into state law, urging the passage of an Indiana-style adoption discrimination bill next session.
This signing statement by Rick Scott is further evidence that in Tallahassee no good deed goes unpunished. This is a concept we are far too familiar with, which is the strategy used by the far-right of disguising anti-LGBT discrimination as religious freedom. In this case, Rick Scott is proposing we give taxpayer funded adoption agencies a license to discriminate against gay couples.
We defeated a similar Indiana-style discrimination proposal this session (HB 7111), but this chilling statement from the Governor reminds us that we need to be prepared for some serious backlash in the approaching 2016 legislative session.
We must be ready to go on the offensive next session by making it clear to the governor and legislature that Florida is a place where discrimination will not be tolerated. Over 50% of Floridians are already covered by local policies that ban discrimination - Now is the time to update our state’s employment nondiscrimination laws to protect ALL of Florida’s LGBT community by passing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.
Only with your continued support are victories like the repeal of the gay adoption ban possible! Let’s remain vigilant and continue to move Florida forward to full equality.
Carlos Guillermo Smith
Public Policy Specialist