Mon, May 08, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Texas adoption agencies could ban Jews, gays, Muslims under new bill

AP, AUSTIN, Texas

Parents seeking to adopt children in Texas could soon be rejected by state-funded or private agencies with religious objections to them being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith couples under a proposal in the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Five other US states have passed similar laws protecting faith-based adoption organizations that refuse to place children with gay parents or other households on religious grounds, but Texas’ rule would extend to state-funded agencies.

Only South Dakota’s rule is similarly sweeping.

The bill had been scheduled for debate and approval on Saturday in Texas legislature, but lawmakers were bogged down with other matters. It is expected to come up next week.

Republican sponsors of the bill say it is designed to support the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers.

Many of the agencies are private and faith-based, but receive state funds.

However, opponents say it robs children of stable homes while funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.

“This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief,” Human Rights Campaign senior legislative counsel Catherine Oakley said. “This goes against the best interest of the child.”

The bill also violates the US Constitution, Oakley added.

“As a governmental entity, Texas is bound to treat people equally under the law,” said Oakley. “This is a violation of equal protection under the law.”

State Representative James Frank, the bill’s author, said it is designed to address the state’s foster care crisis by making “reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system.”

“Everyone is welcome, but you don’t have to think alike to participate,” said Frank, a Republican from rural Wichita Falls, near Texas’ border with Oklahoma.

Suzanne Bryant, an Austin, Texas-based adoption attorney who works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients and was one of the first individuals to have a legal same-sex marriage in Texas, said the bill fails to provide alternatives for prospective parents rebuffed by adoption agencies.

“Say you call an agency and say: ‘I’m Jewish,’ and it’s a Catholic agency and they hang up on you,” Bryant said. “The bill says you can be referred to another agency, but there’s no mechanism to set that up.”

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