Tennessee lawmakers just voted to make discrimination state law.
The state’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Monday that would let adoption agencies refuse to place kids with LGBTQ+ people on religious grounds, The Tennessean reports. House Bill 368, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Tim Rudd, will now go to the Senate, where a corollary bill will be heard in a judiciary committee on Tuesday.
"We have children across this state looking for loving homes," said Democratic state Rep. John Ray Clemmons. "We have got to stop discriminating against people. We have gone far enough."
HB368, which passed in a vote of 67 to 22, “prohibits a private licensed child-placing agency from being required to perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions.” In other words, it would let adoption agencies refuse to work with queer would-be parents under the guise of protecting religious freedom.
Ten states allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services LGBTQ+ people if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs, according to the Movement Advancement Project, including Kansas and Oklahoma.
“[This] bill clearly opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination in foster care and adoption," Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told The Tennessean. "If this bill becomes law, same-sex couples, people of various religious beliefs, and people with no religious beliefs now face the prospect of being turned away from adoption agencies that they helped fund because they are labeled morally or religiously objectionable, which leaves children and youth with longer wait times for permanent homes."