'We Were Wrong,' Say Former Legislators Who Voted For Florida Gay Adoption Ban Nearly 25 Years Ago
MIAMI - Florida's ban on gay adoption -- already facing increasing scrutiny -- is under fire today from several of the former state legislators who helped pass the law nearly 25 years ago.
Eight former members of the state House and Senate signed written statements saying, ""In 1977, we were among the state legislators who helped pass Florida's law prohibiting gay people from adopting children. We now realize that we were wrong. This discriminatory law prevents children from being adopted into loving, supportive homes - and we hope it will be overturned.""
A former Speaker of the State House of Representatives and a former President of the State Senate, both of whom voted in favor of the law banning gay adoption, are among those who signed statements.
""The hysteria of the times led us to do the wrong thing,"" said Elaine Bloom, a former member of the House from Miami who voted in favor of the ban in 1977. Bloom, who helped the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Florida approach her former colleagues to sign the statements, recalled that Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusade - which produced some of the most notorious homophobia in U.S. history - was at its peak just as the gay adoption ban was being voted on by the legislature.
The lone member of the State Senate who spoke against the bill when it was being debated said today that he was encouraged by the former legislators' change of heart. ""This law was always wrong, and it's good to see that it's now being seriously reconsidered,"" former Sen. Don Chamberlin of Clearwater said.
Today's development comes as the ban on gay adoption - the toughest law like it in the country - faces mounting criticism. A federal appeals court will hear arguments later this year in an ACLU case challenging its constitutionality, and the nation's leading children's groups recently said Florida's law ""hurts"" kids. Next week, Florida's law will be in the national spotlight when Rosie O'Donnell speaks publicly for the first time about how her family has been affected by the ban.
""Now that this law has been repudiated by some of the very people who helped pass it, there should be no question that it's time to get rid of it,"" said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith added, ""These former legislators have shown courage and leadership in stepping forward to right this wrong. Is there anyone left who can seriously defend this law?""
The written statements were signed by: former Senate President (and former U.S. Congressman) Harry Johnston; former House Speaker Tom Gustafson; former House members Elaine Bloom, Tony Fontana and Barry Kutun; and former Senators Sherrill ""Pete"" Skinner, Paul Steinberg and Sherman Winn.