In March, Florida’s severely conservative House of Representatives did a surprisingly good thing and voted to repeal a state law barring gay couples from adopting children. The vote was entirely symbolic, since the blatantly unconstitutional statute had already been invalidated by the courts. Still, the minor mitzvah was a nice gesture that gave me fleeting good feelings about my usually horrible home state.
Now, however, the Florida legislature has gone back to being just as awful as ever. In response to the adoption ban repeal, Republican representatives are supporting a “revenge” bill that would give state-funded adoption agencies the ability to refuse to adopt out children to gay couples in the name of religion. (The state’s conservatives were apparently not content to demean and endanger trans people this session.) These legislators, of course, are vigorously pro-life and tout adoption as a great alternative to abortion. But it seems they would rather see a child trapped in the foster care system than let him be adopted by loving same-sex parents.
In a recent Florida House Judiciary Committee meeting, Nathaniel Gill—the son of the gay man who successfully toppled Florida’s adoption ban in the courts—hoped to point out this inhumanity to the bill’s supporters. But when Gill, a 10-year-old, reached the midpoint of his testimony, he was abruptly cut off by Republican Committee Chair Charles McBurney, who informed him his time was up. As chair, McBurney had the authority to grant Gill an extra minute or two, especially since the visibly nervous Gill stumbled and stammered a bit. But McBurney demonstrated no such magnanimity, simply instructing Gill to clear out.
Legislators, of course, are not elected to be sympathetic toward 10-year-olds. But in context, McBurney’s insensitivity here is quite revealing. Anti-gay conservatives appear willing, even eager, to sacrifice children’s well-being in the name of denying equality. It doesn’t matter to them that gay parents are just as good as straight parents at raising children, or that thousands of children languish in the foster care system while gay couples yearn for children to love and support. Abstract religious objections—or, more realistically, bigotry cloaked in the pretext of religion—take precedent over the health and happiness of real children in need. Why should McBurney listen to Gill’s testimony? To him, children like Gill only stand in the way of Florida conservatives’ desire to humiliate and degrade gay people in every way they can.