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Bill to let gays adopt kids hits dead end fast

Florida's longstanding ban on adoptions by gays and lesbians will stay in effect.

A parade of witnesses, many speaking in intensely personal terms, could not sway a Senate committee Tuesday to partially repeal a gay adoption ban that has been in effect since 1977. Republicans hold a 3-2 advantage on the panel. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, announced she lacked the votes to repeal a ban that she said was "born out of bigotry and prejudice."

Rich's bill would allow gays to legally adopt foster children if a judge, by "clear and convincing" evidence, finds it in the child's best interest. Florida, Mississippi and Utah are the only states with outright bans on gay adoptions, and Florida has more than 3,600 children in foster care.

As Rich tabled her bill, a packed committee room audience gasped with disappointment. Some people glared at committee members and shook their heads.

The Republicans on the Senate Children and Families Committee are Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, Evelyn Lynn of Ormond Beach and Durell Peaden of Crestview.

Rich had support from a fellow Democrat, Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell of Fort Lauderdale, one of two Democrats who chair committees in the Republican-led Senate. Campbell told the crowd he scheduled the bill for debate after clearing it with Senate President Tom Lee, R-Valrico.

Tuesday's witnesses included Frank Alexander, who said he was born with the virus that causes AIDS and that two gay men became his foster parents, allowing him to avoid a life of despair and being shunted around.

"I love my dads and they love me back," Alexander told senators, "and that is one thing that Florida can never take away from me."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at sbousquet@spttmes.com or (850) 224-7263.

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