Florida is pushing its very own “license to discriminate” law, and it’s not just pizza parlors and bakeries that will be affected. The state’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives has voted to give state-funded private adoption agencies the right to refuse to let gay couples adopt children.
Recently, the state (finally) did the right thing and repealed its flagrantly unconstitutional ban on allowing gay people from adopting children. Despite a court ruling in 2005 that noted its noxiously discriminatory nature, the law symbolically remained in the state constitution before being symbolically removed from it in March 2015. Not willing to let a good deed go unpunished, House Republicans puffed up their chests and decided to strike back. If gay people were legally allowed to adopt, then they would simply make it really hard for them to do so, by giving the agencies in charge of adoption the “freedom” to not help them.
Given its spiteful origins, it’s little wonder that the legislation has been dubbed the “revenge bill” – and all because gay couples had the audacity to demand equality under the law.
As with Indiana’s anti-gay bill, Florida’s HB7111 is premised on the idea that it is unfair to Christians to make them help gay people. They should be “free” to refuse their patronage if the business owner doesn’t agree with their sexual orientation.
Indiana’s bill is ethically repugnant and has been rightfully slammed by all corners of the American public (costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in the process). However, this one may – astonishingly – be an order of magnitude worse. Whereas Indiana’s battle seemed to focus on catering gay weddings (hence the obsession with bakeries), here is a state that is essentially dooming parentless children to a life of perpetual foster placement and replacement because a group of Republican lawmakers wanted to take a dig at gay people. They would do this even while science has conclusively demonstrated that the children of gay parents suffer no ill-effects because of their parents’ orientation.
Making matters even more indefensible from a legal standpoint, the group of Republicans have voted to subsidize bigotry by explicitly pushing for adoption agencies that choose to discriminate to still receive the state funding that ordinarily they might lose for their intolerance. The bill makes no apologies for this fact, in fact according to the bill’s architects that’s precisely the kind of protection it was designed to do. (In the Florida Republican worldview, the word “protection” means exclusively for would-be bigots and not, say, for gay people.)
Speaking with the Tampa Bay Times, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jason Brodeur (R) offered:
“We’ve seen that in other states, these agencies are being shut down. I don’t believe that the state should be able to discriminate against these organizations based on their religious beliefs.”
So to rectify that, the state will now allow agencies to discriminate because of their religious beliefs. You see? Much fairer.
If you’re looking for heroes in a story that seems to be filled with villains, then it is the long-suffering Democratic minority who have opposed this ugly bill from the start. While overwhelmingly outnumbered, the group has done its best to neuter the bill and spare gay people and children the worst parts of the new law. As ThinkProgress points out, they’ve introduced amendments that would protect specific groups of people: race, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, etc., all of which the Republicans have shot down:
Among the amendment sponsors was Rep. Janet Cruz (D), who explained, “I have a daughter who’s gay and I want to make sure she’s never discriminated against if she decides to adopt a child.” In each case, Brodeur offered a substitute amendment — each of which was identical — adding instead only the words, “An act by a private child-placing agency under this subsection does not constitute discrimination.” The substitute amendments passed every time as the House essentially voted in favor of discrimination based on all of those classes.
Given the lock-step commitment by the Republican Party on this issue, it seems unlikely that the Democrats will be able to stop the bill from becoming law by vote. What they have done, however, is force their right-wing colleagues to openly admit that this bill is specifically designed to allow people to discriminate.
The good news in this is that the Florida Senate doesn’t appear to have a matching bill anywhere near ready in order to actually get this legislation into law any time soon. There is hope that lawmakers in the senate will spare the state a potentially Indiana-esque backfire and simply allow the bill to be indefinitely tabled where it can serve as a footnote in the history of terrible legislation thought up by social conservatives to hurt people they didn’t like.
Feature image via Wikipedia