It’s been a rough few weeks for LGBTQ families — particularly those with a connection to adoption. Various states and cities have been struggling with homophobic bills that are intentionally designed to block gay adoption and keep kids out of loving homes. Fortunately, most of those efforts appear to be going down in defeat. But it’s still far too early to declare victory.
Oklahoma is one of the most worrisome states at the moment. With heavy lobbying from Baptist authorities, politicians passed Senate Bill 1140 in mid-March. The law would give private religious groups an exemption from laws designed to protect children and vulnerable populations, granting them an unlimited right to refuse to provide children with stable supporting homes if they even suspect the parents might be queer.
In contrast, states like Massachusetts upheld nondiscrimination laws, ensuring laws are applied equally to all citizens. In reaction, some religious adoption agencies in those states chose to abandon their charitable services rather than interact with same-sex parents.
There are close to ten thousand children in the Oklahoma system who need placement, all of whom are jeopardized by this legislation. If the Baptist-backed bill passes, the state would be required to contract with discriminatory religious agencies.
And it’s not just same-sex couples who would face discrimination. Single parents, and parents whose religious beliefs are deemed unacceptable by private adoption groups, would be singled out for disqualification as well.
Georgia nearly passed a similar bill last month. The legislation would have targeted same-sex parents in exactly the same way; but it appears to have stalled with little chance of passing this year. A factor in its defeat may have been attention from Amazon.com — the company is currently considering a new headquarters in Alabama; passing homophobic legislation could discourage the company from doing business in the state.
But the news is more dire in Kansas. There, the Department of Children and Families actually endorsed a plan to block queer parents from adopting. As in other states, that legislation is written very broadly — so broad, in fact, that it would also allow discrimination on the basis of religion, age and marital status.
The justification for such a bill is that religious organizations are likely to hold states hostage when it comes to adoption services, threatening to abandon the children in their care if they’re forced to abide by nondiscrimination laws.
But ultimately, the effect of these laws is that the number of available homes is severely narrowed, since religious groups would disqualify same-sex parents. In addition, prospective parents who have been rejected by adoption agencies could be more likely to abandon their plans to raise children.
In recent years, Kansas has been overwhelmed with increasing numbers of children placed into state custody. The proposed law in that state has stalled, and is currently in committee.
These so-called “religious protection” bills really exist as a means to regulate, punish, and discriminate against LGBTQ Americans. Only a handful of states have passed them so far, such as Alabama and Texas. But it’s possible that we’ll see many more attempts to keep children out of loving queer households in the near future.
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