Florida House OKs ‘conscience protection’ adoption bill to allow agencies to refuse gay couples

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Private adoption agencies in Florida would be able to turn away same-sex couples based on religious and moral beliefs under a bill the House passed.

The House voted 75-38 on Thursday for the bill (HB 7111), sending it to the Senate.

The bill is a response to a backlash from social conservatives after the House passed a separate, comprehensive adoption bill (HB 7013) last month that that would create incentives to adopt children in state care and strips language from state law that bans gay people from adopting children.

That law hasn’t been enforced since it was found unconstitutional five years ago, but some legislators opposed removing it from law.

Equality Florida calls the vote is symbolic because the Florida Senate overwhelmingly rejected a similar proposal on Wednesday under the bipartisan leadership of former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin.

In that vote, the Senate blocked attempts to add religious and moral objections to the larger adoption bill already approved by the House. HB 7013 has one more reading in the Senate, and if passed as expected, it will be sent to the Governor.

On Thursday, House Representatives debated from more than an hour, with Republicans saying the “conscience protection” bill was needed to protect the rights of religious groups and Democrats saying the state shouldn’t be allowing discrimination.

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Nadine Smith, chief executive of Equality Florida, said Thursday’s House vote “sends an ugly message about Florida, whether it becomes law or not.”

“As other states such as Indiana have learned, discriminatory laws under the false guise of religious freedom are widely criticized,” said Smith, in a statement. “They are unfair and unjust, and they also hurt a state’s economy.”

The “conscience protection” adoption bill must still be approved by the Senate.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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