The Florida state House of Representatives has approved a bill that would allow private adoption agencies that have contracts with the state to discriminate against same-sex couples if the owner says they have a religious objection to them.
Representatives voted 75-38 in support of the bill with most of the votes against it coming from House Democrats.
Republicans say the bill is needed to protect religious adoption agencies from having to either go against their conscience or close down if another bill formally allowing same-sex couples to adopt becomes law.
Same-sex couples have been able to adopt in Florida since a 2010 court ruling granted them that right but the state’s 1977 ban on homosexual adoption remains on the law books so two weeks ago the House passed a law to strike that out.
That vote was more bipartisan but some Republicans who voted in favour of clarifying the law now say they regret doing so if the ‘religious liberty’ to turn away gay couples is not preserved.
‘I am ashamed of myself for violating my own personal convictions by voting for a bill that this bill seeks to cure,’ Republican Representative Larry Ahern said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
However Democratic Representative David Richardson said that if the orphanages had contracts to serve the public on behalf of the state then that meant all of the public – comparing the issue to segregated restaurants in the American South which only ended in the 1960’s.
‘If you’re open to the public, you’re open to the public,’ Richardson said, ‘If the lunch counter’s open, it’s open for everyone.’