Austin, Texas: Parents seeking to adopt children in Texas could soon be rejected by state-funded or private agencies with religious objections to them being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith couples, under a proposal in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Five other states have passed similar laws protecting faith-based adoption organizations that refuse to place children with gay parents or other households on religious grounds — but Texas’ rule would extend to state-funded agencies. Only South Dakota’s is similarly sweepingly.
The bill had been scheduled for debate and approval Saturday in the state House, but lawmakers bogged down with other matters. It now is expected to come up next week.
Republican sponsors of Texas’ bill say it is designed to support the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers. Many of the agencies are private and faith-based but receive state funds.
But opponents say it robs children of stable homes while funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.
The bill also blatantly violates the Constitution, Oakley added.
“As a governmental entity, Texas is bound to treat people equally under the law,” said Oakley. “This is a violation of equal protection under the law.”
State Rep. James Frank, the bill’s author, said it’s designed to address the state’s foster care crisis by making “reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system.”
Suzanne Bryant, an Austin-based adoption attorney who works with LGBT clients and was one of the first individuals to have a legal same-sex marriage in Texas, said the bill fails to provide alternatives for prospective parents rebuffed by adoption agencies.
“Say you call an agency and say, ‘I’m Jewish,’ and it’s a Catholic agency and they hang up on you,” said Bryant. “The bill says you can be referred to another agency, but there’s no mechanism to set that up.”
Not only could agencies turn away hopeful parents under the religious freedom provision, but they could require children in the foster care system to comply with their faith-based requirements, said Bryant.
That means child welfare organizations could send LGBT kids to conversion therapy, a treatment designed to turn people straight — which the Pan American Health Organization calls a “serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” And they could deny young people contraception and abortions.
More than 100 children died in Texas child protective services last year alone, when a judge had already ruled that the system violated youngsters’ constitutional rights by leaving them more troubled when they left the system than when they entered it. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott made fixing foster care an “emergency” priority and the Legislature has increased funding while backing a number of major changes.
Frank said most adoptions happen through the state’s Child Protective Services, which would not be subject to the religious freedom mandate, though outside agencies that receive state funding would be. He said his bill “codifies” the choices adoption agencies are already making as they select parents.
Frank also said the bill directs state child services to ensure that other outside adoption providers without religious objections are made available to help would-be adoptive parents who get turned away by any who do raise objections.
But his proposal is just one of 24 pending bills in the Texas Legislature that LGBT advocates say encourage discrimination.