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Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing LGBT-Discrimination in Adoption

A Tennessee bill protecting adoption agencies’ rights to not place children with LGBT parents is headed to the governor’s desk, all but ensuring anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption will be legal in the Volunteer State.

Like similar “religious freedom” bills presented across the nation over the last few years, Tennessee’s bill prohibits requiring any private child-placing agency in the state to place children for foster care or adoption if doing so violates “the agency’s written religious or moral convictions.” The legislation also prevents the state from denying a license or government grant to agencies if it refuses a placement on those grounds.

Supporters of the bill argue it will protect the religious freedoms of agencies, but critics point out what many in the adoption industry already know — that LGBT individuals adopt out of the foster care system at a higher rate than heteronormative individuals. The bill, they argue, will make it harder for children to find the supportive, welcoming homes they need, especially after years in the foster care system.

The Human Rights Campaign, one of the most prominent LGBT-rights advocacy organizations, has released a report questioning whether or not this discrimination violates that widely-held “best interests of the child” standard.

This bill comes on the heels of similar proposals in other states and a national proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in late 2019. Republican Gov. Bill Lee has 10 days after receiving the bill to sign or veto it, but his office has already told local paper The Tennessean that he will sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.