'Conscience clause' proposed after gay adoption flap in Florida

by Joni B. Hannigan |

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)A demonstrator holds Barbie dolls as people march through the streets of Paris in support of the French government's draft law to legalize marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in 2013.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Christian Examiner) -- A 'conscience clause' has been proposed to Florida legislators who voted in favor of a bill that removed language banning gay adoption from state law.

Though legislators in the Republican dominated Florida House voted Wednesday 68-50 to approve a measure including a controversial provision repealing part of a state law which bans same-sex couples from adopting, the wrangling is far from over.

The Senate has yet to approve the bill that then would have to be approved by Gov. Rick Scott before the gay-adoption language is removed from the law.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala, said on the floor of the House chamber it was "one of the toughest votes" he had made and that he stayed up all night praying and thinking about it, according to an alternative newspaper in Tampa Bay.

Bill Bunkley, FERLC

A longtime Southern Baptist, Baxley said ultimately he voted in favor of the bill -- but has been discussing a "conscious clause" that could be applied to "adoption agencies that it would violate their convictions to do certain types of adoptions."

In Florida, where Catholic Charities places approximately 30-40 children for adoption each year, Michael B. Sheedy, associate director for health for the Florida Catholic Conference staff, has drafted an "Adoption Agency Conscience Protection Amendment" that has been delivered to key leaders in the legislature.

The amendment is in early phase of discussions, according to Bill Bunkley, president of Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who previously told Christian Examiner, "It is wise to carefully consider the intended consequences as well as any potential unintended consequences" of laws passed in the legislature.

The proposed amendment, in its original form, is expressed as a "protective amendment" that hopes to allow "religious adoption agencies to serve in Florida into the future."

"We are working on this, but it is in its early phase," Bunkley told Christian Examiner. Earlier in the week he said the action caught many by surprise, but he and other conservatives would take a hard look at issues related to foster care and foster care adoption practices in Florida as a result.

The vote on House Bill 7013, an adoption reform bill, came five years following an appeals court ruling the ban on gay adoptions is unconstitutional, according to the Bradenton Herald.

Lawmakers said this put them in sort of a quandry when faced with feforms needed in the current adoption/foster care process to which HB strengthens. The amendment made to strike the language on homosexuality adoption was a last minute addition which caught conservatives by surprise.

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