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Sen. Rich responds to Crist's "Explore Adoption Day"

Our long time adoption bill sponsor, Sen. Nan Rich, wrote this op-ed in today's Sun-Sentinel.
Anti-gay adoption law a drawback for Florida's efforts

Recently, the Sun Sentinel ran a guest column by Gov. Charlie Crist to highlight "Explore Adoption Day" in Florida. In it, the governor celebrated last year's record-high 3,700 adoptions of foster children in our state, and says that all an adoptive parent needs is "an open heart and the willingness to be a parent to a child who has experienced abuse, or neglect, and needs a safe and loving home."

Unfortunately, that's not quite true. In Florida, it doesn't matter how open your heart is, or how willing and capable of being a loving parent you are, if you're gay. That's because Florida is the only state in the country with a sweeping anti-gay adoption law.

So while I applaud Gov. Crist for his efforts to promote adoption, the simple fact remains that we could do a lot more to help foster children find permanent, loving homes by repealing this discriminatory law that jeopardizes the best interests of children.

In Florida, the average wait for a foster child to be adopted is over two years, even though federal law requires states to find permanent homes for children within one year of entering foster care. Worse, more than 1,000 children in our state have been waiting for more than four years.

Making children who have already endured abuse or neglect and the trauma of being removed from their homes wait any longer than necessary is cruel and unconscionable. Yet Florida continues to disqualify hundreds of prospective adoptive parents, simply because of their sexual orientation.

Not a single credible academic study supports the notion that same-sex couples should be excluded from adopting. And indeed, in Florida, gay and lesbian people serve as loving, capable foster parents.

In a statewide survey taken by Quinnipiac College in January, 55 percent of Floridians said they oppose the state's ban on adoption by homosexuals. So I urge Gov. Crist and my colleagues in the Legislature to open their own hearts, follow their constituents and allow adoption by anyone who is willing and able to give a foster child a safe and loving home — regardless of sexual orientation.

It's wonderful that Florida sets new records for the adoption of foster children. However, removing Florida's discriminatory adoption ban would enable even more children to have permanent, loving homes.

Nan Rich, a Democrat, is a state senator from Weston.


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