- The Magazine
The Texas House of Representatives has passed a bill that allows adoption agencies, even those that receive state funding, to use religion to refuse same-sex parents.
Supporters of the measure have defended their support for it by citing the decision by Catholic Charities to shut down adoption services in states like Massachusetts and Illinois following the legalization of same-sex marriage, lest the adoption agencies be found guilty of violating state nondiscrimination laws.
While it’s apparent that the bill is primarily aimed at allowing child placement agencies to turn away LGBTQ couples, it would also allow discrimination against prospective parents based on their religion, including interfaith couples, on age, or on marital status.
The bill would also prevent the state from refusing to renew the license of agencies that are found to have discriminated against prospective parents, so long as they cite religious beliefs as justification.
Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls) refuted those assertions, telling the Houston Chronicle that his bill would allow faith-based providers to make “reasonable declinations of certain child welfare services,” but only in “very specific, limited circumstances.”
Frank has said the intent of the bill is to grow a diverse network of agencies with varying beliefs that can accommodate different kinds prospective parents, without forcing the nearly one-quarter of agencies that are faith-based providers to violate their consciences.
But LGBTQ advocates and their allies aren’t buying Frank’s rationale for the bill, saying it’s just another example in a string of bills introduced in the Texas legislature that target the LGBTQ community for discrimination (including a transgender “bathroom bill” and a measure to ban transgender athletes from participating in school sports).
“It’s horrific that the Texas House would allow state-funded or private adoption agencies to use religious exemptions as a weapon to ban qualified LGBTQ families from adopting a child,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEo of GLAAD, said in a statement. “As a mother, it’s infuriating to see anti-LGBTQ politicians do literally anything, including harming a child’s future, to drive their discriminatory anti-LGBTQ political agendas forward.”
“HB 3859 is a wholesale rejection of LGBT people as foster and adoptive parents, and it says to LGBTQ kids in the child welfare system: ‘There is something wrong with you,'” Currey Cook, counsel and director of Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, said in a statement.
“Children in state care deserve our best efforts to protect and prioritize them — including LGBTQ kids and kids from diverse religious backgrounds. Those agencies that won’t commit to putting children’s needs first, and to nondiscrimination as a core promise to all children, must not be allowed to operate as agents of the government. There is no right to be a government contractor — agencies must adhere to standards of care set by licensing boards and professional governing bodies in order to provide services.”
The bill now heads to the Texas Senate, where it is expected to pass easily. If it passes and is signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, as expected, Texas would become the sixth state to pass such a law, after North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, Michigan, and Alabama.
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