Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) has signed an anti-LGBT adoption bill. Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Texas Governor Signs Anti-LGBT 'Religious Freedom' Adoption Bill

BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law legislation that would enable taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse to place a child with LGBT families out of religious objections.

The legislation, House Bill 3859, forbids government agencies or contractors from taking "adverse action" against an agency that "has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for child welfare services that conflict with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider's sincerely held religious beliefs."

Many child placement agencies are religious institutions, such as Catholic adoption agencies. Under the new law, these agencies could be free to deny placement to an LGBT family -- or Jewish people, Muslims and single parents -- based on religious beliefs.

The new law also prohibits the state from taking adverse action against adoption agencies for providing children with a religious education, which observers have interpreted as allowing agencies to engage in widely discredited conversion therapy. Further, the law allows agencies to decline to refer a person to abortion or contraception-related services.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, criticized Abbott in a statement for signing the legislation on the basis it will block children from being placed in homes.

"Lawmakers used religion as a weapon to pass a bill that not only harms qualified candidates who want to start families, but children," Ellis said. "This law was never about the best interests of Texans or of children, but about forwarding a political agenda to codify the permission to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans into state law. Discrimination has won in Texas, and it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a deserving family simply because they are LGBTQ."

Last month, the Texas House approved the measure, 93-49 and the Texas Senate approved the bill, 21-10. The deadline for Abbott to take action on the bill before it became law on its own was Sunday. Abbott signed the legislation on the same day he vetoed 50 other bills the state legislature presented to him.

Also condemning Abbott for signing the legislation in a statement was Kasey Suffredini, acting CEO of Freedom for All Americans.

"This new law will have dramatic consequences on same-sex couples across Texas who are looking to open their homes and their hearts to children in need," Suffredini said. "It will have devastating consequences on LGBT youth, who now can be forced into dangerous practices like conversion therapy. Adults should always be looking out for children, and acting with their best interests at heart - and this new law runs contrary to that basic value.

Other states with laws allowing adoption agencies to deny placement to LGBT households are Michigan, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia and Alabama. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law anti-LGBT adoption measures along with Abbott just this year.

Abbott might not be done signing anti-LGBT legislation anytime soon. He called for a special session of the legislature starting July 18 to pass a bill that would inhibit transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Although lawmakers advanced such a proposal during the regular session, they couldn't agree on a bill before time expired.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political and White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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