Florida Legislature Overturns Ban on Gay Adoptions

The big headline from Florida recently was that the state legislature overturned a law preventing gay or lesbian people from adopting. In fact, the legislation in question was a broader bill that restored popular cash incentives, previously dropped in 2009 in response to the economic crisis, for state workers who adopt foster children, particularly those with special needs. And the ban on gay adoptions had been rendered unenforceable by a court ruling years ago. Nevertheless this week’s vote by the Florida legislature was a gesture of reassurance to LGBT adoptive parents.

Rep. David Richard, a Miami Beach Democrat and the Florida legislature’s first openly gay member, persuaded colleagues to include a clause removing the ban on gay adoptions before sending HB 7013 over to the Senate. The Senate passed the measure April 14 on a 27-11 vote, with several Republican members calling the ban’s removal a “poison pill.” Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.

The House previously passed a companion “conscience protection” bill, HB 7111, that would protect adoption agencies from losing licenses or state funding for refusing to facilitate adoptions to gay or lesbian parents on religious or moral grounds. Some senators have predicted that HB 7111 will not pass the Senate.

Florida’s ban on gay and lesbian adoption dates all the way back to singer Anita Bryant’s 1977 “Save Our Children” campaign, which led to the repeal of a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The success of Bryant’s campaign fueled a backlash against the nascent gay civil rights movement and inspired similar legislation in a number of U.S. cities, including a 1978 bill, fortunately rejected by California voters, that would have mandated the firing of gay or lesbian public school teachers in the state.

In the wake of Bryant’s successful effort, the Florida legislature in 1977 passed a law prohibiting gay and lesbian people from adopting children. The ban remained in effect through numerous court challenges and was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004, but in 2010, a state appeals court upheld the ruling by a lower court that the ban was unconstitutional. Although that ruling rendered the ban unenforceable, it remains in the letter of Florida law.

There is no way to know how many families have been harmed by this law, and how many children delayed from finding loving homes. The sponsor of HB 7013, GOP Senator Don Gaetz, citing the 852 children currently in foster care and awaiting adoption in Florida, said he saw no moral conflict and no point in keeping the anti-gay adoption ban in place, Reuters reported. “I ask you today, follow the law,” Gaetz said. “Follow the law that says we don’t discriminate. Follow the law that says we’re going to give those 852 children the best life we can.” At the end of the day, the majority of Florida legislators followed their consciences in doing just that. Fingers crossed their governor will do the same.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.