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More Gay And Lesbian Couples Set To Adopt

Florida's nearly 40-year-old same-sex adoption ban was repealed by Florida lawmakers.
Graphic by Kenny Malone
Florida's nearly 40-year-old same-sex adoption ban was repealed by Florida lawmakers.

With the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st, a spate of laws is now in place in Florida. Among the many changes that went into effect was the repeal of a nearly four-decade-old ban on adoption by gay parents.

Gay and lesbian couples in Florida have legally been able to adopt since 2010, when an appeals court ruled that a 1977 ban on doing so was unconstitutional. But advocates worried that a court ruling wasn’t enough—so they took it to the legislature. The House and Senate passed a bill in April, and the governor signed it in June.


Adoption agencies say the repeal doesn’t change too much in practice, but it does make it easier for gay couples to adopt, especially since same-sex marriage is now legal.

Robert Lamarche is director of social services at Advocates for Children and Families, a small adoption agency in North Miami Beach. He says before the legalization of same-sex marriage, adoption by gay couples was more expensive and more labor intensive because couples couldn’t adopt jointly.

Lamarche expects to see an uptick in applications at his agency. “We’ve seen the interest by same-sex couples increase year over year.”

Most of the young birth mothers he sees are open to placing their children with same-sex couples, too, he says. “There are some who are not interested in placing with same-sex couples, but that’s no different than some of my birth moms only want to place in the state of Florida, some only want to place with married couples, some may have religious preferences…I don’t find it to be a real issue.”

Some conservative legislators and activists opposed the bill. John Stemberger, President of the Florida Family Policy Council, called it “bad public policy” that was “not in the best interest of children.” Moreover, he said, "the problem with the bill...is that it removes the conscience protection from faith-based agencies," which would allow religious organizations to choose where they place children. Stemberger’s group plans to lobby legislators and the Governor on this next year.

Representative David Richardson, of Miami Beach, who is Florida’s first openly gay lawmaker and who introduced the amendment to repeal the adoption ban earlier this year, said he would oppose any such bill.

“I believe it is unconstitutional, and I’ll be prepared to fight it with all my might,” said Richardson. “If you’re open for business, you’re open for business for everybody.

Richardson expects lawsuits related to religious protection to be the next front in the battle between gay activists and conservatives.

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Nina Agrawal is a master's candidate at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and Graduate School of Journalism. She interned at WLRN during the summer of 2015. Nina previously worked in education policy and as a writer and editor for the foreign policy magazine Americas Quarterly. She can't put down a good investigative story and has a deep and abiding love for public radio.