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Gay Adoption Not on Scott Admin Agenda Yet

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Jan. 19, 2011 --

Gov. Rick Scott said he doesn't have a policy yet on adoptions by gay couples, but reiterated on Wednesday that he believes "adoption should be by a married couple."

Scott named David Wilkins this week to head up the state Department of Children and Families, which enforced the state's ban on adoptions by gay couples until it was thrown out by the courts last year.

Wilkins was affiliated with the Baptist Children's Home, which requires people who want to adopt through its services to be "a professing Christian, be active in a local Christian church, and follow a lifestyle that is consistent with the Christian faith."

The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that some social service advocates are nervous about the appointment of Wilkins because of his affiliation with the fundamentalist Christian organization.

Scott said Wednesday during a question and answer session with reporters that he hasn't "had any discussion on the gay adoption ban" with Wilkins, but said he – not Wilkins – will decide what, if any, policy the state will pursue on the issue.

"First off, I'm the governor," Scott said. "So whatever my position would be would be the position that would be enforced."

Florida previously banned adoptions by gay couples, but a Miami judge struck down the ban, a ruling that was upheld last September by the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Last fall, the state Department of Children and Families or Attorney General Bill McCollum could have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court but both declined to do so.

That option is now off the table – the time limit for appealing the case has passed, meaning it’s not clear what, if anything the new administration could do, even if Scott or Wilkins wanted to change the policy. The Legislature could pass a new ban, but it would likely have to be substantially different or it would likely be struck down again.

State legal officials say it’s possible that DCF could try to block an adoption by a gay couple in another state appeals court district, with the hopes of getting a new circuit judge and a different appeals court to rule differently, but there’s no indication the agency has any plans to pursue such a strategy.

A spokesman for Scott said such a scenario contemplated a hypothetical, but also said the governor will enforce the law as it is at the moment.

“The governor is focused on jobs and job creation,” said Scott spokesman Brian Burgess. “As part of that agenda, he knows one of his most important duties is to follow the law, regardless of his personal beliefs.”

The state’s former attorney general, Bill McCollum, declined to appeal the case that voided the ban last year. On Wednesday, new Attorney General Pam Bondi said she agreed with McCollum’s decision. Since the timeline for appealing it is past, her office doesn’t really have any role in the issue.

Wilkins hasn’t spoken publicly since being named to head up DCF, replacing George Sheldon, on Tuesday. He was introducing himself to staff at the agency on Wednesday.

Scott also said Wednesday that agency heads aren’t generally talking to the media at the moment because they’re focused on learning what changes need to be made in state government.

“I know the media’s important,” Scott said while speaking at the Associated Press annual legislative planning session. “But really, their job is to fix these agencies.”


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