MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Faith-based adoption agencies, including those that care for state foster children, could turn away gay couples on religious grounds without risk of losing their state license, under a bill advanced Wednesday by the Alabama Senate Health Committee.
Committee members voted 6-1 for the bill after an emotional public hearing that included people who urged protections for faith-based groups that place children for adoption and others who said it would allow state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. The legislation that would prohibit the state from refusing to license or sign contracts with adoption groups that refuse services to people on religious grounds.
Sen. Bill Hightower said the bill would ensure that faith-based agencies can continue to operate and place needy foster children for adoption.
“We want to make sure that channel is open,” Hightower said. “All I’m trying to do is ensure that the (Department of Human Resources) does not discriminate against faith-based organizations in the placement of children.”
Hightower said 70 percent of the children who are adopted do not go through faith-based agencies so it should not curtail access to adoption.
Denise Brogan-Kator of the Family Equality Council told the committee that the bill gives groups “the state’s express permission and taxpayer dollars to discriminate against prospective families who are qualified to give these children a home.”
Brogan-Kator said the bill prioritizes the religious beliefs of private placement agencies over the needs of children.
“These children need and deserve every chance to be placed into a loving home,” Brogan-Kator said.
Other speakers included people adopted as children, or had placed a child for adoption, through a faith-based organization. Also present was a father who said the bill discriminated against his gay daughter.
An Alabama House committee has passed a similar bill earlier this session.