BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) has signed on as the first Republican supporter of a bill outlawing discrimination against same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents.
"It's way past time to allow the thousands of children in foster care the opportunity to live in safe and nurturing families who are eager to adopt them," said Ros-Lehtinen in a statement. "There are strict guidelines to ensure that the placement of these children will be regulated and that the parents will provide the protective guidance and structure that the children need."
"My home state of Florida had discriminatory laws in place that were preventing caring parents from adoption," she continued. "This Federal bill is a step in the right direction so that the proper match between responsible parent and needy child can take place regardless of the parent's sexual orientation."
Ros-Lehtinen has traditionally been more supportive of LGBT issues than many others in her party. According to the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard, she had one of the best records in the Republican Party voting for LGBT priorities in the last session.
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) introduced the Every Child Deserves A Family Act on May 3, and dozens of lawmakers have signed on as cosponsors, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate in the coming weeks.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would "ban discrimination in adoption or foster care placement based on the sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity of the potential parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child," according to a statement from Stark's office.
"Sound family policy is not a partisan issue," said Family Equality Council Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler. "There are more than 424,000 kids in foster care in the United States, with 115,000 eligible for adoption. Congress must work together to find ways to provide these children loving and stable homes. The only way to do that is to tear down legal and political barriers that are eliminating qualified parents who also happen to be gay or lesbian."
In April, Virginia's State Board of Social Services rejected adding protections against discrimination in adoption proceedings on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, age, religion, political beliefs, disability and family status. Currently, the state prohibits discrimination on national origin, race and color.
Last month, Arkansas' high court struck down the state's law barring same-sex couples from adopting. In an opinion published without dissent, the court argued that the law violated individuals' right to privacy.
Even with Ros-Lehtinen's cospsonsorship, prospects for Stark's bill seem slim, although her name could open the door for more Republicans to support the measure.
According to the Family Equality Council, one million LGBT parents in the United States raise two million children.