Marco Rubio Voted For Florida's Now-Infamous 'Scarlet Letter' Law

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Sen. Marco Rubio.Sen. Marco Rubio.

In 2001, Florida state legislators under then-Governor Jeb Bush, allowed the so-called “Scarlet Letter” law to go into effect. Under the legislation, single mothers were required to publish their sexual histories in the newspaper before they could place children up for adoption.

Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio was among the Florida state legislators who voted in support of the bill.

The "Scarlet Letter" law changed Florida state's adoption regulations and Bush has received a good deal of criticism for allowing it go into effect. According to The Huffington Post, however, Rubio's support of the bill may alleviate some of that criticism.

At the time the law was passed, Bush said it was meant to bring more “certainty” into adoptions, with a goal to “provide greater finality once the adoption is approved, and to avoid circumstances where future challenges to the adoption disrupt the life of the child," NPR reports.

A woman was required to post her sexual history if she did not know who the father of her child was. The father would then have the opportunity to see the listing and respond before the child was put up for adoption.

It was also required for victims of rape or incest.

The notice would include personal information, such as potential cities and dates where the child may have been conceived.

"The notice ... must contain a physical description, including, but not limited to age, race, hair and eye color, and approximate height and weight of the minor's mother and of any person the mother reasonably believes may be the father; the minor's date of birth; and any date and city, including the county and state in which the city is located, in which conception may have occurred,” the Notre Dame Law Review writes.

The notice was required to run once a week for a month. The cost of the notice was to be paid by the mother or the couple that wanted to adopt her child.

Bush was not wholly supportive of the law, as a letter he wrote at the time to Secretary of State Katherine Harris shows.

"House Bill 141 does have its deficiencies," Bush wrote in the letter. "Foremost, in its effort to strike the appropriate balance between rights and responsibilities, there is a shortage of responsibility on behalf of the birth father that could be corrected by requiring some proactive conduct on his part."

Bush allowed the bill to pass without signing it and after it became law he advocated for ways to fix it.

The “Scarlet Letter” law was replaced two years later by Bush with a bill that addressed many of his 2001 concerns, including the creation of a paternity database. This change occurred shortly after a Florida appellate panel said that forcing women to list their sexual encounters was an invasion of privacy and thus, unconstitutional.

Five U.S. congressmen who were Florida state legislators at the time also voted for the "Scarlet Letter" law. Those members included Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Jeff Miller, Gus Bilirakis, Dennis Ross and Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel. 

Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson, with Republican Reps. Daniel Webster and Bill Posey, were also state legislators in 2001, and voted against the bill.

"I have to admit I'm horrified that I voted for this," Frankel, a women’s rights advocate, said in 2002.

Sources: The Huffington Post, NPR, Notre Dame Law Review

Photo Source: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, newsmax.com