Tennessee’s legislature passed a law on January 15 that would protect religious adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ potential parents. This harms this bill, the first the Tennessee legislature has passed this legislative session, and the harms could cause are great for numerous reasons.
First, this bill violates the first amendment. This legislation institutionalized religion by permitting adoption agencies that are funded by the public to discriminate based solely on their religious beliefs. This bill does not attempt to masquerade as protecting the children for some fabricated reasons surrounding the sexuality of the couple adopting; it is clear that it will protect discrimination against the parents solely due to religious fervor. By the state permitting state-funded institutions to discriminate based on religious belief, this legislation is tantamount to violating the first sentence of the Bill of Rights, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
This bill is also a clearly homophobic measure. It is written to clearly target gay or lesbian parents looking to adopt, as well as hurting the children. By permitting such discrimination in adoption, this bill will greatly shrink the pool of potential parents at a time when our foster care system is already overflowing with children. Child abuse is extremely common in the foster care system, something that state senator Raumesh Akbari made clear when telling the personal story of a friend who was in foster care as a child during debate on this legislation.
While some would argue that children are also harmed by being parented without either a mother or father figure, there is no actual proof of this. No scientific study has ever demonstrated that children are harmed by the lack of a figure of both sexes. Gay parents are just as capable of being parents as a straight couple, and their ability to adopt is just as clearly legal. All the way back in 2007 the Tennessee Attorney General ruled that there was no law preventing LGBTQ+ parents from adopting, and permitting adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ parents based solely on the adoption agency’s religion is a clear violation of the Constitution by the state, and a clear violation of the legal rights of the parents who are adopting.
This is not the only legislation coming to the floor that is designed to be discriminatory against LGBTQ+ people during this session, though. In South Dakota, a bill entitled H.B. 1057 has been introduced to prohibit medical transitions for minors, as well as a similar bill in Missouri entitled H.B. 1721. For the 22nd consecutive year, the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act has been introduced, though it is likely to stall once again. H.J.R. 82 would amend the Missouri constitution to prohibit transgender students playing in interscholastic sports on the sports team of the gender they are transitioning or have transitioned into, and there are dozens of other bills like these in states across the country.
This legislative session, and 2020 itself is likely to be a major point in LGBTQ+ rights, with the Supreme Court ruling on employment discrimination due at the beginning of spring, and dozens of bills likely to be passed in legislatures in Republican controlled states, this year will be crucial, and these bills must be opposed by the citizens in these states. Voters must not let their legislatures pass legislation that is blatantly discriminatory, and if legislators vote for these bills than voters should remove them during the November election.