While Jimmy Carter was moving into the White House, 1977 was a watershed year for the conservative right in the Sunshine State. Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant launched a national anti-homosexual crusade. The Legislature banned gay adoption.
But with the astonishing help of arch conservatives Wednesday, the Florida House laid the antique statute to rest. Here’s Miami Republican Frank Artiles, the sponsor of an anti-transgender bathroom bill.
“I am not a homophobe, I am not a transphobe, I’m a father. And with this, I rise in support of this bill.”
Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley, a funeral home director, church elder and former director of the Christian Coalition, gave a stirring eulogy.
“But I need to make an explanation to the people I represent and this body about how I have worked through the moral compass of this position, and where I arrived. And I pray for each of you to arrive at the same place.”
Bill sponsor Jason Brodeur, a Republican from Sanford, said nothing about gay adoption in his closing remarks. He was pleading instead for the 600 children in group homes, and 462 of those between 11 and 17, the least likely to be adopted.
“And there was nobody, nobody identified, to do their homework with them, to teach them how to balance a check book, to teach them how to drive, help them apply for college. Nobody.”
But the 68 to 50 vote is mostly symbolic. A Florida appellate court overturned the gay ban in 2010. House Speaker Steve Chrisafulli takes some prodding before acknowledging his stance on gay adoption.
“Philosophically, I’ve never really been there on that.”
Nothing is ever black or white in the legislative process and gay adoption is no exception. It was added to a bill that awards state workers up to 10,000 dollars to adopt. Gay adoption was the result of a trade, Chrisafulli admits.
“We felt we could also include the home schooling component and that’s why we put the amendment in play.”
The real prize for conservatives is a measure allowing foster and adoptive parents to home school.
Some Democrats voted against the bill because of it. They argue home schooling keeps troubled kids out of the watchful eye of teachers and principals.
It’s been years since the Legislature debated adoption and Tallahassee attorney Madonna Finney doesn’t think the gay ban should be stealing all headlines.
“As a lawyer representing adoptive parents, it doesn’t change my practice it doesn’t change who can and who can’t adopt.”
Adoption incentives for state workers could be a big deal, especially for those living paycheck to paycheck and especially for those considering kids with special needs kids.
“Maybe they need to widen some doorways. Maybe they need to have a ramp put in. Maybe they need a bigger vehicle.”
The good news, Finney says, is adoptions in Florida are on the rise.