Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced last week that he’s planning on signing a bill that will allow faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to receive taxpayer funding, even if they exclude LGBTQ families into law. 

The bill was approved last April by the House, and given final passage earlier this month by the Republic-majority state Senate. The bill was sent to Lee with warnings of negative consequences for Tennessee’s reputation. Before the Senate vote, Lee refused to comment on the bill, claiming he had yet to read it. Chris Walker, the governor’s communications director, confirmed in a statement last Tuesday that the governor would in fact sign the bill. 

Senator Steve Dickerson, the only Republican opposed to the bill, said sarcastically, “We are off to a fine start this session.”  His claim against the bill was that it would limit the amount of families that are allowed to adopt, leaving children in the foster-care system for longer. He also argued that the bill would financially hinder the state. 

Supporters of the bill argue that the bill protects foster and adoption agencies First Amendment right to religion. State Sen. Paul Rose said of the bill he sponsored, “This bill is solely about freedom.” 

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Critics believe the bill is an attack LGBT rights. Currey Cook, Director of Lambda Legal said,  “Children who need more homes, not fewer, should not suffer as part of efforts to chip away at equality for LGBTQ families.”

Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia, Mississippi and Michigan have all passed similar bills. Michigan, however, later agreed to settle  a lawsuit to no longer turn away LGBT couples or individuals because of religious objections.

If signed, Tennessee adoption practices aren’t expected to change much. Many faith-based agencies already do not allow gay couples to adopt. This law would simply provide legal protections to agencies to continue their practices.


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