Georgia State Capitol – Photo: connor.carey, via Wikimedia.
The Georgia State Senate has passed a bill allowing adoption and foster care agencies in the state to continue to receive taxpayer money, even if they discriminate against a host of prospective parents, particularly LGBTQ people and same-sex couples.
The Senate passed the legislation, sending it to the House of Representatives for consideration. Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), the chief sponsor of the bill, says it’s necessary to ensure that child placement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, aren’t forced to violate or shelve their beliefs regarding sexuality and marriage in order to continue their work of placing children with prospective parents.
But opponents say the measure will discriminate against same-sex couples, deny children loving homes, and may even put LGBTQ youth at risk by placing them with families that may refuse to acknowledge or even attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“As someone who was adopted myself, I find it deeply insulting that a few politicians are putting LGBTQ youth and families at risk for discrimination,” Fran Hutchins, the deputy director of Equality Federation, said in a statement. “Every child deserves a loving family and place to call home.”
Jeff Graham, the executive director of Equality Georgia, called the bill “mean-spirited,” adding “This legislation goes out of its way to make it harder for loving and committed same-sex couples to start a family — and unfortunately, it’s children in need of permanent homes who will pay the steepest price.”
Following passage of the bill, Hollywood write and producer Ben Wexler, known for his work on The Grinder and Arrested Development, suggested that Hollywood boycott Georgia and refuse to shoot any more shows in the state should the anti-LGBTQ adoption bill pass, reports CBS Atlanta.
“To my fellow showrunners: if this dumb bill becomes law, let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia,” Wexler tweeted.
Actor Dan Bucatinsky, of Scandal, echoed a similar sentiment, tweeting: “Threatens my family & so many other American families. Let’s please boycott so much production in Georgia — fattening their economy to help fertilize poison like this. Sickens me to think of the time I shot there. And they hate us. #BoycottGeorgia.”
Two years ago, a similar boycott was threatened after lawmakers tried to pass a bill that would have granted sweeping religious exemptions to business owners and government workers by allowing them to refuse to serve same-sex couples. Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, eventually vetoed the bill.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston promised that the House would proceed cautiously with the bill.
“Some have called SB 375 a ‘license to discriminate’ against people wishing to adopt in Georgia,” Ralston said. “That is not a charge to take lightly. That said, the Lt. Governor’s and Senate’s support of this measure requires that the House give it due consideration. As the Senate did with HB 159, House members will need to take appropriate time to study this measure and consult with experts in the field before proceeding.”
The bill’s opponents are planning to hold a rally to protest the bill at Central Presbyterian Church, across the street from the state capitol.
The Human Rights Campaign noted that while LGBTQ couples are the primary target of the bill, its provisions could also allow child placement agencies to turn away interfaith couples, single parents, divorcees, or any other prospective parents to whom an agency might object.
“Plain and simple — SB 375 is discrimination dressed up as a ‘solution’ to a fake problem,” Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. “It creates an unnecessary hardship for potential LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents in Georgia and primarily harms the children looking for a loving home. It’s unfortunate that leaders are focusing on this bill, instead of concrete ways to improve the child welfare system in Georgia. We ask the Georgia House of Representatives to reject this bill.”