Pro-gay groups in Florida are cheering
the introduction Monday of a federal bill that would encourage states
to drop barriers that exclude gay and lesbian people from adoption or
Florida is the only state that bans gay
people from adoption outright. State statue says: “No person
eligible to adopt under this statue may adopt if that person is a
“Florida's ban on adoption by
qualified gay men and lesbian women hurts children, and this bill
would help eliminate barriers to children being adopted by qualified
individuals and having a forever home,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive
director of SAVE
Dade, a group that advocates for gay rights in Miami-Dade County.
California Congressman Pete Stark's
Every Child Deserves a Family Act would deny funding to states
that ban gay, lesbian, transgender and unmarried people from adoption
or foster programs.
The legislation would allow people who
have been discriminated against to sue in federal court and would
penalize states with discriminatory laws by withholding Social
Security funds at the discretion of the Secretary of Health and Human
Services. The bill also calls for a Government Accountability Office
study within five years to examine the law's efficacy.
Cathy James, president of Securing
Our Children's Rights (SOCR), a group that advocates for repeal
of the Florida ban, called the legislation “important” and
promised to work with Stark's office to pass it.
James compared the measure to the
Adoptions and Safe Families Act of 1977 (ASFA), which imposed
significant financial penalties on states that do not meet specific
“ASFA has a tremendous impact on the
fiscal reality of every state's foster care system by establishing
goals for permanency requirements,” she told On Top Magazine
in an email.
“Every Child Deserves a Family Act
can go even further to shorten the time period for providing children
in state custody with a permanent home by expanding the pool of
qualified individuals and couples to provide safe, secure, loving and
permanent homes for children,” James added.
Brandon Hensler, director of
communications for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida,
said the group supports the legislation.
In introducing the bill, Stark told
House members that a child's best interest should be the only
criteria used when considering a potential placement. “Bigotry
should play no part in this decision,” he said.
While gay men and lesbians are banned
from adoption only in Florida, other states deny placement in
roundabout ways. Several states forbid unmarried couples from
adoption in states that outlaw gay marriage. Arkansas voters
approved such a law, Act 1, last November.
Advocates for repeal of Florida's ban
say it has cost the state millions, broken apart families and hurt
children. A 2006 National Center for Lesbian Rights analysis
concluded foster teens are 17.5 times more likely to be homeless and
7 times more likely to be diagnosed with a “severe” learning
disability than non-foster teens.
The bill is headed to the House Ways &
Means subcommittee but no hearings have been scheduled.