Legislature Sides With Guns Over Gays in Adoption
Adoption agencies would be prohibited from making prospective parents reveal whether they have guns or ammunition at home under measures advancing Tuesday in both the House and Senate.
The legislation, backed by the National Rifle Association, also was briefly used by Democrats in both chambers to make a run at lifting Florida’s three-decades-old ban on same-sex couples adopting children.
But amendments on both sides were withdrawn after Democrats derided the state for discriminating against prospective parents at a time when Florida adoptions are lagging.
“Whether a person owns a gun or not is not a reason to stop someone from adopting,” said Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston. “Neither is their sexual orientation.”
Rich has sponsored legislation the past four years -- which she said has failed to even gain a hearing in the Senate the past three years – aimed at rescinding Florida law prohibiting gay couples and individuals from adopting children.
Florida is the only state in the nation with such a ban – one that has endured even after a South Florida judge ruled it unconstitutional in 2008. Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, called it an “antiquated and wrong-headed policy.”
But with a majority in both chambers clearly unwilling to readdress the policy, Democrats dropped the proposal – allowing the NRA-supported adoption provision to continue unscathed this election year.
Leadership in the House was prepared to rule the gay adoption measure out of order as not germane to the gun legislation, said the House sponsor of the amendment, Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando.
Both the House and Senate are positioned for final votes Thursday.
Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, said the adoption measure (SB 530), “is to protect the children and not provide an obstacle to adoption, just because a person legally owns a firearm.”
But like a lot of bills, there’s a legislative back-story behind the measure.
In the House, sponsor Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, told the News Service of Florida earlier that he and his wife dealt with a “mountain” of paperwork as they attempted to adopt a child through the Children’s Home Society of Florida, which assists with adoptions in the Orlando area.
But Horner said the couple were offended when asked about what weapons they had at home. The legislation he is sponsoring (CS/HB 315) would bar adoption agencies from having prospective parents complete forms which demand weapons information – although it would require those seeking to adopt to acknowledge they have received a copy of the state law detailing how to safely store firearms.
Horner said that the Children’s Home Society, which contracts with the Florida Department of Children and Families to provide adoption services, was the only licensed adoption agency that included a form asking prospective parents to provide details on their weapons, where they’re kept and what kind of ammunition is in their house.
But legislative records show that on November 11 – five days after Horner filed his bill – the Children’s Home Society issued a memo instructing staff to no longer make or keep any list of firearms’ owners. The NRA contends that if such lists exist, they may be unconstitutional and that Florida law already prohibits a state agency from maintaining a list of firearms owners.