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Tennessee gov. signs anti-LGBTQ adoption bill into law; allows adoption agencies to refuse prospective parents based on religious beliefs

The New York Daily News - 1/26/2020

Jan. 25--Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, signed a controversial anti-LGBTQ bill into law Friday that allows children-placement agencies to discriminate against anyone who violates "the agency's written religious or moral convictions."

Critics say that House Bill 836 essentially legalizes discrimination by child welfare organizations: It allows prospective parents who want to provide a home to children in need to be turned away by taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies.

"It's disturbing that Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that will harm children in Tennessee," Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, told the Daily News in a statement.

"Elected officials should protect all of their constituents, not just some," he added. "Now, Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year."

In a report released in December 2017 by the HRC, the nation's largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, states that this type of anti-LGBTQ legislation "enshrine[s] discrimination into law."

The bills, which are not supported by the larger community of mental health professionals, mount to discrimination "at the taxpayer's expense."

Prospective parents can be legally rejected if child-placement services object to them for a list of several faith-based reasons. They include: identifying as LGBTQ, being part of an interfaith marriage, being a single parent, even being in a marriage in which one of the partners has previously been divorced.

If a fact about the life of a prospective parent doesn't align with the moral or religious beliefs of a state-funded child welfare institution, the organization can legally decide to deny them service.

"We are extremely disappointed that Gov. Lee signed HB 836 -- the first anti-LGBTQ bill to be signed in 2020," Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation, said in a statement.

It was signed into law quietly, with no announcement from the governor's office.

"This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans," David told The News. "With many months ahead in the Tennessee legislative session, Tennesseans should make their voices heard -- loudly -- to ensure that the legislature and Gov. Lee do not continue to target LGBTQ Tennesseans."

Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project expressed concern about what the passage of the bill could mean for the LGBTQ in the state.

"The Governor and the Legislature must put a stop to this kind of demeaning public policy," he said in a statement. "As this bill becomes law, Tennessee's LGBTQ community is worried about the introduction of even more discriminatory bills," Sanders added.

HB 836 is just the latest in a series of blatantly discriminatory bills undermining civil rights to the LGBTQ community in Tennessee, known to advocates as the "Slate of Hate."

Last April, 11 businesses, including Hilton, Nike, IKEA and Lyft, joined the HRC and co-signed a letter slamming anti-LGBTQ legislation being considered in the state.

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