Texas House OKs rejecting non-Christian parents

Alvin Kelly
May 11, 2017

Among other things, the bill would allow foster and adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex families and allow agencies to subject LGBTQ children under their care to "religious education".

The bill would be the nation's second allowing state-funded adoption agencies to reject families on religious grounds.

The legislation passed by a 94-51 vote - which was mostly among party lines, except for three Democrats who supported the bill - after several hours of debate, many proposed amendments design to weaken the bill, and multiple procedural attempts to kill the bill. While the Texas proposal may not pass constitutional muster, that hasn't stopped the state's lawmakers before, who have in recent years approved a voter ID law and abortion restrictions that were overturned in court.

"This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps flawless in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief", said Catherine Oakley, a senior legal counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, told NBC.

A statement about the bill provided to CNN by Frank's office says that "HB 3859 protects the rights of the faith-based organizations to exercise their religious mission to serve others without fear of retaliation".

Rep. James Frank (R) introducing HB 3859 to the State Affairs Committee back in March. "Everyone is welcome, but you don't have to think alike to participate".

Head of a Dallas-based Christian child welfare organization Buckner International, Randy Daniels, said that religious adoption agencies have been "terrified" of lawsuits.

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"Equal protection requires that there's another option for every family", said Lestino. South Dakota, and now Texas, seek to go further.

The ACLU said HB 3859 is one of 17 bills filed in Texas legislature this session that "would allow government officials, private individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people in virtually all aspects of their lives".

"If organizations are turning people away and those people are unable to be served that's a violation", she said. "I know this bill would make that happen at multiple levels in this state welfare system".

"HB 3859 is yet another example of Texas legislators' coordinated efforts to pursue discrimination against LGBTQ people instead of focusing on the best interest of all Texans", said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, and an adoptive and foster parent.

"If you are going to accept state money, then you shouldn't be allowed to discriminate", she told HuffPost on Sunday. The faith-based community has been seen by some state leaders as a potential solution; Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick hosted a summit in November encouraging religious congregations to help, and Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott in January publicly urged religious groups to support foster families with donations and other activities.

A report from KXAN notes that the "Bill of Rights" for youth in Texas Foster Care used to include a guarantee of "fair treatment" according to a variety of different identities, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

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