Texas governor signs license to discriminate law that will hurt orphans

Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-Texas) AP

Under the law signed Thursday by Texas Republican Greg Abbott, the Lone Star State’s 48th governor, faith-based child adoption agencies that work with the state’s child welfare system now have the power to turn away adoptive and foster parents who are LGBTQ and/or non-Christians.

The justification for the denial, according to the statute, is “under circumstances that conflict with the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” In other words, a license to discriminate. And Lambda Legal declared point-blank in a tweet: this will hurt LGBTQ young people.

Not surprisingly, this was a bill that conservative Christians in Texas wholeheartedly supported as an example of “religious liberty,” as Reuters reported and JoeMyGod noted.

The sponsor of House Bill 3859, Republican State Rep. James Frank, tried to pull wool over the eyes of LGBTQ Texans and their allies with a post on social media, assuring them that ”HB 3859 bans no one.” The new law requires the state to offer alternative providers to anyone denied the right to be adoptive or foster parents because of the provider’s religious beliefs. And there should be no problem whatsoever finding one of those “alternatives,” given that of the 61 agencies listed by the state on its website, 36 either reference religion in their name or requirements or mention faith on their websites. That leaves 25 agencies across the huge state of Texas for LGBTQ couples and non-Christians looking to avoid an automatic “no.”

“Lawmakers used religion as a weapon to pass a bill that not only harms qualified candidates who want to start families, but children,” said GLAAD in a statement. “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.”

Snopes.com weighed-in on the question of whether the law “bans non-Christians from adopting children,” with the conclusion that the claim was “mostly false.” And while that is correct, it’s not an outright ban, Rebecca Robertson, the policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Texas chapter, raised an important point in the Washington Post:

We think the primary purpose of this is to permit lesbian, gay and transgender parents to be turned away, but there’s nothing in the bill that prevents agencies from turning away, for example, people who have been divorced, people who are single, or people who don’t go to church enough. At every point where a decision about a kid’s care is being made, you could have the rights of the child-welfare provider take precedent over the best interest of the child.

Human Rights Campaign is also on record as opposing the bill, now the law:

The reality is, a quarter century of research has found that children raised by lesbian and gay parents fare just as well as those reared by heterosexual parents. Major professional groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, as well as national and state child welfare organizations, overwhelmingly support adoptions by qualified same-sex parents.

Religious organizations have an important, constitutionally protected fundamental right to believe what they wish. However, by accepting taxpayer funding to offer adoption and foster care services to the public the organization is engaging in a publicly funded secular activity, since children in the protection of the state are the state’s responsibility. Discriminating against potentially qualified prospective parents using taxpayer dollars does a disservice not only to the children waiting to join foster or adoptive families but also to the entire state.

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