UPDATE (1/27/2020): Without fanfare or announcement, Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee has signed a bill into law that would protect adoption agencies who discriminate against LGBTQ+ families on religious grounds. The governor had previously said he would sign the bill and its passage into law makes it the first new law in the state for 2020.
States like Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alabama, Kansas, Virginia, and Mississippi have similar laws.
ORIGINAL (1/15/2020): We’re only weeks into the new decade and legislators are already pushing forward on rolling back the rights on LGBTQ+ people. In Tennessee, the state’s Senate passed its first bill which will protect adoption agencies who chose to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples if they claimed it was for religious reasons according to The Tennessean.
The bill, which is sponsored by Republican Senator Paul Rose, states that agencies are not required to place child if the placement would “violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” This would mean that as long as it is official policy of the agency, and not employed on a case-by-case basis, discrimination is allowed. Not only is it allowed, but it can be government-funded and is protected from lawsuits.
The rules passed in the House in April of last year and was the first thing that the Senate addressed in the 2020 legislative session. It passed in the Senate 20-6 with all five Democrats voting against, and five Republican members declining to vote. Steve Dickerson was the lone Republican voted against — he argued that the state would become the subject of boycotts and would suffer financial and economic impacts as a result of “bad public policy.” In particular he mentioned the NFL draft, NCAA basketball playoffs, and NHL events who are all reportedly eyeing the state.
Of those who did not vote was Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally who engaged in the debate of the law, which was a surprising move. Other Republican members who argued against the bill also declined to vote.
The bill will now go to the governor's office. According to The Tennessean, Governor Bill Lee’s office confirmed that he would sign the bill immediately.