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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State revives antidiscrimination rules for LGBT foster children

State regulators are moving forward with new protections for LGBT children living in state group homes.

The Department of Children and Families on Tuesday published a change to state rules that would specifically ban bullying or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Last year, the department proposed to give greater protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children in its care. But following a backlash from religious conservative groups, the state backtracked this spring, prompting an outcry.

Since then, DCF has been working with advocacy group Equality Florida to write new rules, said Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida's lobbyist.

"We're glad DCF decided to listen to child welfare experts about how we need to treat gay and transgender youth in our state's care fairly and equally," Guillermo Smith said.

Under the new rules, sexual orientation and gender identity would be treated like race, sex, religion or disability in antibullying language. They also would allow transgender youth to own personal items based on their gender identity and ban conversion therapy programs intended to change how children identify as part of the state's group homes program.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement that the rule "will continue to protect vulnerable children in the child welfare system."

"This is consistent with other rules and regulations governing the treatment of children and is what's best for Florida's kids," he said.

The change will not immediately go into effect, and it could be the subject of public hearings in the coming months.

When the state previously backtracked on similar rules, more than 50 people attended a public hearing and 700 submitted a written comment. Ten Democrats in Florida's congressional delegation weighed in, as well. Just one couple applauded the decision.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 10:09am]


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