During the 2015 legislative session the Florida Legislature was contemplating changes to laws governing adoption. Amid calls from the LGBTQ community for equality, the Florida House sent an amendment to the bill that would end Florida’s decades old ban on the practice.
While some said that the state should adopt a separate law that would let private agencies use religious or moral grounds to turn away gay couples seeking to adopt children.
Some Republicans said this “conscience” law is needed to ensure that faith-based organizations handling adoptions will keep offering their services, but other legislators have compared the measure to Indiana’s religious objections law and said it would encourage discrimination against gay couples.
House Democratic legislators blasted the measure, saying it would allow discrimination. Led by Rep. David Richardson, the chamber’s first openly gay member and a Miami Beach Democrat, they tried several times to amend the bill (HB 7111) but House Republicans voted them down.
Ultimately, Senator Gaetz credits his son, State Representative Matt Gaetz, with changing his mind “my son sat me down and said, ‘Dad, nobody under 35 cares about this issue. Only you old guys. … Republicans shouldn’t care.’“
Don Gaetz described his son, also a Republican, as one of his best teachers.
“He looks at issues, obviously, through the eyes of a 33-year-old,” the elder Gaetz said. “He looks at issues through the eyes … of somebody who moves in circles where different issues are discussed than in the geriatric circles that I move in.”
Then Senate President, Don Gaetz called Florida’s anti-gay adoption law a “sleeping, comatose dead dog” and an “archaic, dusty, dead law.”
While Senator Gaetz initially expressed concern for the political repercussions of the amendment saying that “If we’d have bounced the bill back one more time, the leadership in the House said, ‘We don’t want to take it up. We don’t want to go through this again,’ ” Gaetz recalled.
Said the senior Gaetz “The Department of Children and Families has testified before trial courts that they knowingly place children in same-sex homes and that, contrary to the objections of some groups, there have been absolutely no indications that same-sex adoptions or same-sex foster care placements have had any negative effects on children.”