In some places across the United States, strongly-held religious beliefs often clash with the growing movement for LGBTQ rights. And sometimes, those beliefs win out over equal rights for all citizens. On Tuesday, an Alabama bill that discriminates against LGBTQ families was approved by state legislature, allowing adoption and foster care agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ families based on their religious beliefs.
The Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act almost sounds like a nice thing: It doesn't mention LGBT families specifically and instead advocates solely for the rights of religious adoption and foster care agencies. However, the bill essentially establishes agencies' right to refuse service to same-sex couples: According to the bill, HB24, it aims to "prohibit the state from discriminating against or refusing to license a provider of child placing services ... on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child placing service or carry out an activity that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider."
According to BuzzFeed, if Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signs the bill into being, those rules would apply to all child placement agencies, including those that receive state funding. Alex Smith, board chair of Equality Alabama, told BuzzFeed that — in a state where there are no laws that protect LGBTQ from discrimination — same-sex couples are already turned away from some adoption agencies. "We are aware that agencies are already doing this, but this bill will give discrimination the state's seal of approval," he said on Tuesday. He continued:
We value the place that faith has in many people's lives, but using one's faith to discriminate against another person is wrong, and should not be made the law of the land.
According to Vice, the bill would also allow agencies to discriminate against single parents, interfaith couples, or those who aren't married. Agencies would continue to receive state funding, and their discrimination against certain couples would be protected under the claim of religious freedom.
According to AL.com, around 30 percent of the agencies that provide adoption and foster services are faith-based organizations, and there are approximately 5,000 children in foster care or group homes in the state.
Rep. Rich Wingo, who sponsored the bill, recently told AL.com that HB24 had nothing to do with discriminating against same-sex couples — instead, he said, it was about protecting faith-based agencies' right to choose where they placed children. "This bill is not about prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from adopting or fostering a child," he told AL.com, and cited concerns about agencies closing if they were forced to serve all families. "If 30 percent (of Alabama's foster and adoption agencies) were to close their doors, that would create a burden on the state that impacts the children."
Eva Kendrick, state manager in Alabama for the Human Rights Campaign, told AL.com that while Alabama couples denied service at faith-based organizations could go to secular agencies, they could also be kept from adopting a relative's child if the child was placed through a faith-based agency. "The concern is this law would allow agencies to refuse a placement with a family member who is the next of kin," she said.
It's not just that. If a child is going to be loved and cared for in a family, then religion should have nothing to do with it — especially if taxpayers' money is funding the agency. Here's to hoping Alabama will turn around their discriminatory bill before it further affects LGBTQ couples in the state.