Florida lawmakers approved a measure on Thursday that would allow private adoption agencies refuse to let gay couples adopt children.
The bill, which passed the Florida House 75-38, would prevent the state from revoking the license or refusing funding to an adoption agency that refused to let a gay couple adopt a child on religious or moral grounds, ThinkProgress reported.
Supporters of the bill say that the measure is necessary in order to keep faith-based adoption agencies open. Earlier this week, the state Senate passed a different bill eliminating a ban on gay adoption from state law. The Senate measure was seen as largely symbolic because the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that Florida's ban on gay adoption was unconstitutional in 2010.
"We've seen that in other states, these agencies are being shut down," state Rep. Jason Brodeur (R), the bill's sponsor, told the Tampa Bay Times. "I don't believe that the state should be able to discriminate against these organizations based on their religious beliefs."
Brodeur also told the Associated Press that the law wasn't discriminatory because gay couples could still go to non-religious or state-based adoption agencies.
Democrats also introduced several amendments that would have prohibited discrimination based on things like sexual orientation, race and gender -- none of which passed, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"Yes, we want to discriminate between what's in the best interest of the child and what's not in the best interest of the child," John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, told NBC. "What's clear with the research is that what's best for children is it's best to have mothers and fathers."
Opponents of the bill made comparisons to the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and said that it permits discrimination against potential LGBT parents and doesn't have the best interest of children at heart.
"When agencies choose to accept public tax dollars to find families for children in the foster care system, they should be required to make placement decisions based on the best interests of the children, not the agencies’ religious beliefs," Michelle Richardson, public policy director of ACLU of Florida said in a statement. " To allow the agencies’ willingness to discriminate to trump the needs of the children the State has hired them to care for not only shocks the conscience but is also unconstitutional."
Maxwell Tani contributed reporting.