Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to Sign Bill Protecting Religious Freedom of Adoption Agencies

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said Tuesday he will sign into law a bill that would protect the religious freedom of faith-based adoption agencies.

Senate Bill 1304 would prohibit the state from forcing faith-based adoption agencies to place children in homes that have same-sex or transgender couples, which would conflict with their faith beliefs.

David Fowler, president of Family Action Council of Tennessee, which supports the legislation, wrote on Tuesday:

The bill was opposed as being a threat to the state’s economy because of potential protests from the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights activist groups, but the bill passed in the Senate 20-6.

In a surprising move, the speaker, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, actually came to the floor and spoke against the bill. Speakers rarely take to the floor to speak against a member’s bill.

The bill will now go to the governor, having already passed the House with 67 out of 99 votes last year.

On Thursday, Religious Freedom Day, agencies of the Trump administration announced new proposed rules that would implement President Donald Trump’s executive order that protects the religious freedom of faith-based organizations.

For faith-based adoption agencies that receive funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for example, a proposed rule would enable Christian adoption agencies to freely place children only in homes with a married mother and father, as is consistent with their faith beliefs.

Currently, under the Obama-era regulations, “sexual orientation” receives special anti-discrimination protections, and the faith-based adoption agencies are subject to legal challenges from LGBT rights groups if they choose not to place children with same-sex couples.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said the proposed rules of the Trump administration recognize “that Americans of faith play an essential role in providing healthcare and human services to many vulnerable people and communities.”

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president, also said, according to Fox News, “Thanks to President Trump, charities will be free to care for needy children and operate according to their religious beliefs and the reality that children do best in a home with a married mom and dad.”

As the Associated Press (AP) reported, a number of states have enacted similar measures that block lawsuits challenging the adoption decisions of faith-based groups, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia, and Mississippi.

“This bill is solely about freedom,” said GOP Tennessee Sen. Paul Rose, who sponsored the bill in that state.

Lambda Legal, however, condemned the legislation.

“The foster care system is at a critical juncture where it is required by new federal law to reduce the number of children placed in harmful group homes and to expand family home options for children who cannot safely return to their family of origin,” said Currey Cook, counsel and director of Lambda Legal. “Children who need more homes, not fewer, should not suffer as part of efforts to chip away at equality for LGBTQ families.”

Some media referred to the Tennessee measure as “anti-gay.”

NBC News featured the AP wire story of Lee’s announcement of his intention to sign the bill with the headline, “Tennessee Governor Says He Will Sign Anti-Gay Adoption Bill,” and local WJHL.com News used the headline, “Tennessee Governor Says He Will Sign Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill.”

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