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Why Tennessee's adoption law doesn't discriminate against LGBTQ people | Opinion

 

 

Brian Ericson, Guest columnistPublished 7:00 a.m. CT Feb. 25, 2020

 

At the end of January, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that would allow continued taxpayer funding of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that exclude same-sex families on the basis of religion.

Unsurprisingly, the LGBTQ community and its allies, both in Tennessee and across the nation, have widely condemned the move, and some media outlets have called the governor's signature anti-LGBTQ. But dig a little deeper than the headlines and the collective outrage, and you'll find an ideal solution that gets the government out of the private sector while doing absolutely nothing to restrict the LGBTQ community's rights to adopt.

LGBTQ news site NewNowNext somewhat dishonestly reports that the new bill “allows agencies to reject LGBTQ couples seeking to foster or adopt on a moral or religious conviction” and suggests that it “green-lights discrimination against LGBTQ couples.” And companies like Amazon have come out against the new law, emphasizing the company’s “long history of supporting equality” even as it breaks ground on a new facility in Nashville.

At the end of January, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that would allow continued taxpayer funding of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that exclude same-sex families on the basis of religion.

Unsurprisingly, the LGBTQ community and its allies, both in Tennessee and across the nation, have widely condemned the move, and some media outlets have called the governor's signature anti-LGBTQ. But dig a little deeper than the headlines and the collective outrage, and you'll find an ideal solution that gets the government out of the private sector while doing absolutely nothing to restrict the LGBTQ community's rights to adopt.

LGBTQ news site NewNowNext somewhat dishonestly reports that the new bill “allows agencies to reject LGBTQ couples seeking to foster or adopt on a moral or religious conviction” and suggests that it “green-lights discrimination against LGBTQ couples.” And companies like Amazon have come out against the new law, emphasizing the company’s “long history of supporting equality” even as it breaks ground on a new facility in Nashville.

So what does the new law do, exactly?

The text of the bill states that “no private licensed child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies.”

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Of course, private agencies and nonprofits have had the freedom to choose their clientele for over a decade under the Tennessee Religious Freedom Restoration Act (a state code based on the federal RFRA proposed by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats in 1993). So this portion of the bill is nothing new — and anyone who claims that Lee’s freshly signed law green-lights further discrimination is making a scene for no reason.

 

The only thing the bill really did, then, is protect private agencies both from civil action lawsuits and from losing any current or potential public funding. The bill’s text says that “a state or local government entity shall not deny to a private licensed child-placing agency any grant, contract, or participation in a government program because of the agency's objection to” participating in a placement that violates its policies.

Most adoption agencies remain available to everyone

Nowhere in this bill are same-sex couples or faith-based agencies even mentioned. None of the text prohibits or restricts same-sex couples from seeking to adopt or foster. It simply prevents the government from overreaching into the private sector’s agencies — faith-based or otherwise. In fact, under these new guidelines, the law would even protect a secular private agency that refused services to religious couples on the basis of the agency’s “written…moral convictions or policies.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Rose, even acknowledged that faith-based agencies constitute only “12 to 15 percent of placement agencies” in Tennessee. That means that same-sex couples looking to adopt or foster can go to 85% to 88% of public and private agencies and more than likely receive the services they need — and that’s not including any faith-based agency that does provide service for same-sex couples.

So while fearmongers continue to sensationalize the story and warn of an imminent homophobic dystopia, Tennessee’s newest law will quietly put the government right where it should be: out of the way of any agency or person who wants to give children a home.

Brian Ericson is a Nashville-based editor and Young Voices contributor. His writing has been featured in the Washington Examiner, Free the People, Townhall and Spiked magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @brianscott67.

https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2020/02/25/tennessee-adoption-law-doesnt-discriminate-against-lgbtq-people/4862008002/

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