The bill will allow faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to receive taxpayer funding even if they exclude LGBTQ families and others.
The Tennessee Senate approved a measure that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to work with families if they claim that working with those families would “violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
HB 836, which was approved by the Tennessee House last year, is the first bill that the state senate considered in 2020 and it passed, 20 to 6. All five of the Democrats in the state senate voted against the bill, along with one Republican. While several other Republicans argued against the bill, they ended up voting “present.”
The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Lee (R), who has already told the Tennesseean that he will sign it into law.
HB 836 prevents the state from denying an adoption agency a license or refusing grant money to an agency because they deny homes to children for discriminatory reasons. The bill also prevents people from suing adoption agencies for discrimination if the agency argues that its religious beliefs require it to discriminate.
Tennessee Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D) argued that the bill would deny homes to children who need them.
“To me, it boils down to safety,” she said. “It boils down to hem being happy, being free from abuse, and to feel like they belong.”
Tennessee Sen. Steve Dickerson, the only Republican to vote against the bill, said that it was “bad public policy,” citing businesses that may refuse to hold events in the state because of the bill.
“I think we can probably kiss that goodbye,” he said, referring to several major sports events.
But the bill drew support from conservative Christians, including the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Tennessee does not currently forbid adoption agencies from discriminating against LGBTQ parents, but the law could threaten local anti-discrimination ordinances in several cities like Memphis and Nashville.
According to the Washington Blade, Tennessee will soon join nine other states that have passed laws allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people, even if they receive government funds: Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota.