A proposed House bill would allow private adoption agencies with written moral or religious policies to refuse adoption to couples who violate those policies.
House Bill 7111, sponsored by Florida Rep. Jason Brodeur, passed the Judiciary Committee on April 2.
The bill would allow businesses to deny couples who don’t correlate with the agency’s policy, which could include gay and lesbian couples, mixed-faith couples and mixed-race couples, among others.
“My wife and I are a mixed couple — she’s Jewish, and I’m Catholic,” said Bob Rooks, the director of Florida’s Adoption Information Center. “There may be agencies that wouldn’t be willing to work with us because of a difference in religion.”
Rep. Elizabeth Porter, a co-sponsor of HB 1171, believes if people have a religious reason to object to something, they should be able to opt out of it.
“It will give more children homes and still allow people to adhere to their religious beliefs,” she said, “which is what this country was founded on.”
In 2010, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals held Florida’s 1977 law banning adoption by gays was unconstitutional. Since then, same-sex couples have been allowed to adopt in Florida.
Some private adoption agencies receive state funding, said Jim Akin, the executive director for the Florida chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
But Porter said this isn’t justification for private agencies being required to allow gay couples to adopt children under their care.
“Couples will still have the ability to choose which adoption agency to facilitate their adoption,” Porter said.
There are currently about 80 private adoption agencies in Florida, Akin said.
Terry Fleming, co-president of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida, said even if the bill passes the House, it’s unlikely the legislation will become law because the House bill has no Senate companion. Without a Senate companion, the bill cannot become law.
Fleming compared the bill to recent religious freedom legislation in Indiana.
“It’s an Indiana-style law that allows discrimination against LGBT freedoms in the guise of religious freedom,” Fleming said. “It’s very disappointing that some legislators feel they need to enshrine discrimination against the LGBT community in Florida law.”
Florida’s adoption agencies serve more than 10,000 people per year, Rooks said. While he said the bill may be a barrier to couples looking to adopt, it isn’t a major one because most adoption agencies aren’t religiously affiliated.
But Akin said the bill would limit the number of agencies couples could go to.
“When someone refuses to provide services to you, that’s also discrimination,” Akin said. “We have 859 children that currently need homes. The focus should be on getting these children into homes.”
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 4/7/2015 under the headline “FL bill aims to apply religious freedom to adoption agencies”]