Alabama: Adoption Agencies Can Refuse Gays Per Religion

| by Michael Allen

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed a law on May 3 that will allow some adoption agencies to refuse gay couples based on religious beliefs.

Ivey said the new law will protect religious liberty, notes the Alabama Media Group:

The elected legislature of this state overwhelmingly approved House Bill 24. Having served as President of the Senate for more than six years, I appreciate the work of the legislature, and I agree with it on the importance of protecting religious liberty in Alabama.

I ultimately signed House Bill 24 because it ensures hundreds of children can continue to find "forever homes" through religiously-affiliated adoption agencies. This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home.

The state House voted for the bill 87-0; six members abstained from the vote.

Republican state Rep. Rich Wingo, who sponsored the bill, said: "Very thankful to the governor that she believes in and stands up for religious liberty and religious freedom."

Democratic state Rep. Patricia Todd countered: "This bill obviously came about because same-sex marriage was approved. It's based in a stereotype. And it's wrong. And we shouldn't discriminate and I will always fight that."

Wingo's law, the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, doesn't specifically mention discriminating against people, but it does provide legal cover for adoption agencies (from the state) if the agencies discriminate against couples per the agencies' religious beliefs:

This bill would prohibit the state from discriminating against child placing agencies on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child placement that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider.

This bill would prohibit the state from refusing to license or renew the license of a child placing agency on the basis that the provider declines to carry out an activity that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the agency.

The law will not affect adoption agencies that receive federal or state money because such agencies are not allowed to use religious beliefs to discriminate against people.

David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, issued a statement: "We are disappointed that one of the very first pieces of legislation Governor Kay Ivey chose to sign is a bill intended to target LGBT kids and stigmatize LGBT families. If the Governor had hoped to signal a new day in Alabama government, this was the wrong way to do it."

Eva Kendrick, state director of the Human Rights Campaign of Alabama, also opposed the bill, saying: "We are deeply disappointed that the legislature and the governor took on this unnecessary, discriminatory bill instead of focusing on how to improve the lives of all Alabamians, no matter who they are or whom they love."

Ivey, though, insisted that the new law will protect children: "Alabama is a place where we care for our neighbors, and lend a hand to those we don't know. This bill ensures that the neediest among us, children who need to feel the love and security of a family, are cared for."

Sources: Alabama Media Group, LegiScan / Photo Credit: Fort Rucker/Flickr

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