Florida conservatives scramble over gay adoption bill

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) -- Conservatives in Florida are up in arms today over what they say is a move by Republican leadership to remove Florida's longstanding policy against homosexual adoption.

"Republican leadership have completely by-passed the committee process and public notice and debate," John Stemberger, head of Florida Family Policy Council, said in a March 10 release.

The vote on House Bill 7013, an adoption reform bill, came five years following an appeals court ruling the ban is unconstitutional, according to the Bradenton Herald. Some Republicans voted against the quickly approved bill, although none spoke out against it, the article said.

As with any piece of legislation, it is always wise to carefully consider the intended consequences as well as any potential unintended consequences
- Bill Bunkley, president, Florida ERLC

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach said, "It's an acknowledgement of different times," according to the article. "Sometimes it's about people and not about politics."

Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, however, said the practice has been ongoing for five years -- and while the vote is not an endorsement "our bill is going to reflect" the practice.

The bill is to be voted on late this afternoon and expected to have wide support.

Placing children in a same-sex household permanently deprives them of ever having a mother and a father.
- Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel

Bill Bunkley, president of Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (FERLC), told Christian Examiner while the action caught many by surprise, he and other conservative groups are looking are taking a hard look at issues related to foster care and foster care adoption practices in Florida as a result.

"I was certainly taken off guard by the amendment that was filed and later adopted as part of the bill. Normally something of this importance would have been vetted during the committee process," Bunkley said.

I still think a mom and a dad are what kids need. I was just quiet [when asked if he voted no.]
- Dennis Baxley, Southern Baptist & former House Speaker

Despite the fast-moving nature of the bill that apparently side stepped the committee process in the House, Bunkley sounded optimistic.

"Regardless of the immediate outcome in the Florida House, let's not forget that there is a separate chamber, the Florida Senate, who is still working on their version of this comprehensive package," he continued.

"As with any piece of legislation, it is always wise to carefully consider the intended consequences as well as any potential unintended consequences," Bunkley said.

Not every conservative was as vocal in opposing homosexual adoption.

Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala and former speaker of the Florida House, told Bradenton news it was a "sad acknowledgement" the vote was already lost on the discussion. Some members, he said, quietly voiced a "no" vote anyway.

"I still think a mom and a dad are what kids need," said Baxley, a Southern Baptist.

However, when asked if he voted "no," Baxley said, "I was just quiet."

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, told Christian Examiner the bill is bad for children, the family and Florida.

"Anyone who votes for it should be removed from office," Staver said. "Placing children in a same-sex household permanently deprives them of ever having a mother and a father."

Staver, who has written extensively on religious liberty and same-sex marriage, focuses on topics of cultural and political interest from a Christian worldview.

"The legislative leadership should be ashamed for passing this bill through the dark of night without notice and without the opportunity for the people of Florida to respond," he said.