Texas bill would allow adoption agencies to deny couples based on religion

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The Texas House of Representatives has advanced a bill that provides protections to foster care and adoption agencies operating in accordance with their faith.

Mirroring other "religious freedom" bills introduced across the country, HB 3859 stipulates that the government can not take any "adverse action" against any "child welfare services" provider for acting in accordance with its "sincerely held religious beliefs".

The Texas House has begun debating a contentious bill that would officially sanction adoption agencies that reject prospective parents based on religious grounds, marital status and sexual orientation.

Republican sponsors say Texas' bill supports the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers. "If signed into law, this bill would most harm the children in Texas' child welfare system - kids who need a loving, stable home". "Rather than addressing the findings laid before us by the bluntly accurate court case, we're now taking the consideration of the providers over the best interests of the child".

This means they cannot just turn away people belonging to other faith groups, like Muslims or Jews, but also LGBTI parents.

But the author of HB 3859, State Representative James Frank insisted that this is not the case since the bill directs that alternative options be given to potential parents in the event their request is denied.

"Everyone is welcome. But you don't have to think alike to participate", said Frank, a Republican from rural Wichita Falls, near Texas' border with Oklahoma.

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Robertson also said the proposal violates the Constitution since it involves taxpayer dollars.

But LGBTQ advocates and their allies aren't buying Frank's rationale for the bill, saying it's just another example in a string of bills introduced in the Texas legislature that target the LGBTQ community for discrimination (including a transgender "bathroom bill" and a measure to ban transgender athletes from participating in school sports).

"As a governmental entity, Texas is bound to treat people equally under the law". They add that in some locales, there are no other adoption agencies aside from the religious groups.

"If organizations are turning people away and those people are unable to be served that's a violation", she said.

Frank has said the intent of the bill is to grow a diverse network of agencies with varying beliefs that can accommodate different kinds prospective parents, without forcing the almost one-quarter of agencies that are faith-based providers to violate their consciences. HB 3859 will only exacerbate the challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.

"My guess is if you have an LGBT agency they're going to pick an LGBT family, and if you have a Baptist agency they may be more likely to pick a Baptist family", Frank said.

"I will support the religious freedom of anyone to believe whatever they want, but I don't believe in enforcing that through legislation", he said.

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