Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama has signed a controversial bill allowing in-state adoption agencies to turn away applicants based on religious grounds. Supporters of the legislation assert that it will protect religious liberty, while opponents argue that it enables discrimination against LGBT couples.
On May 3, Ivey signed House Bill 24 into law, making it legal for Alabama adoption agencies to refuse placing children with couples that they find religiously objectionable, AL.com reports.
"I ultimately signed House Bill 24 because it ensures hundreds of children can continue to find 'forever homes' through religiously-affiliated adoption agencies," Ivey said. "This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home,"
The bill had cleared its legislative hurdles on April 25, when the Alabama House passed it by a unanimous vote of 87, with six abstentions. Republican state Rep. Rich Wingo of Alabama, the bill's sponsor, praised Ivey for standing "up for religious liberty and religious freedom."
House Bill 24, also known as the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, makes no mention of LGBT couples. Despite the omission, the new law would enable Alabama adoption agencies to deny same-sex or transgender applicants without penalty, Buzzfeed News reports.
Democratic State Rep. Patricia Todd of Alabama believes that the new law is a blatant attack on LGBT residents in her state.
"This bill obviously came about because same-sex marriage was approved," Todd said the day of the House vote. "It's based in a stereotype. And it's wrong. And we shouldn't discriminate and I will always fight that."
Wingo asserts that his legislation is not bigoted, citing how it made no mention of LGBT couples.
"The bill is not to discriminate against anyone," Wingo said. "Nowhere in the bill does it saying anything like that or lead you to believe that."
LGBT advocates are not convinced that the new law doesn't target same-sex or transgender Alabama residents. Eva Kendrick of the Human Rights Campaign of Alabama issued a statement blasting both Ivey and the Alabama legislature.
"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," Kendrick said.
Board chair Alex Smith of Equality Alabama asserted that religious objections should not excuse discrimination.
"We value the place that faith has in many people's lives, but using one’s faith to discriminate against another person is wrong, and should not be made the law of the land," Smith said.
Republican State Sen. Adelbert Marsh of Alabama has suggested that LGBT couples in his state could adopt through secular agencies.
"Those individuals who want to go that route have that route," Marsh said. "What we're trying to do is say is, 'Okay, you also can't discriminate against religious organizations who want the ability to place these kids where they think they'd be best suited for them."