Tennessee is set to give adoption and foster care agencies a free pass to discriminate against LGBTQ couples by citing their “written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
The state Senate kicked off its 2020 legislative session by passing the bill, SB 1304, with 20 votes for and only six votes against. Sen. Steve Dickerson was the lone Republican opposing the bill, with another five Republican members declining to vote, including Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who, according to the Tennessean, left his chair in a rare move to argue against the bill.
It was approved by the House last April, and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (below) announced through a spokesperson on Tuesday that he intends to sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.
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Dickerson argued that passing the bill into law would damage the state’s reputation and could cost it conventions and sporting event, as has occurred in other states with anti-LGBTQ laws, like North Carolina. He said he has heard from representatives of the tourism industry who showed concern the state could lose the opportunity to land the NFL draft, the NCAA basketball playoffs, NHL events, and various businesses looking to relocate.
Senate Majority Leader Jeff Yarbro tried to amend the bill so that it would only offer protections on licensing and legal challenges to adoption agencies not receiving public funds, but that effort proved unsuccessful.
“This bill simply protects children to be placed in homes that agree with their stated religious and moral convictions,” claimed the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Paul Rose.
“Children who need more homes, not fewer, should not suffer as part of efforts to chip away at equality for LGBTQ families,” Currey Cook, Counsel and Director for Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project said in a statement. “People of all faiths and loving and qualified LGBT individuals and couples want nothing more than to provide loving homes to children.”
“Lawmakers in Tennessee used some of the first minutes of their legislative session to enshrine discrimination into law,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.
“These legislators are disregarding the best interests of kids in the child welfare system to create a ‘license to discriminate’ against qualified, loving prospective parents. This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans. It is shameful that one of the first orders of business in Nashville was to target LGBTQ people. We urge Tennesseans to make their voices heard in opposition to this bill as it heads to the governor’s desk.”
If the governor makes good on his pledge, Tennessee will join ten other states with similar laws, according to MAP: Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.
The Trump administration has also proposed a rule that would allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies across the country to refuse to place children in LGBTQ homes.