Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed House Bill 3859 on June 15, allowing faith-based adoption agencies to deny placement of foster children with same-sex couples, Jews, Muslims and others based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The bill was authored by Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), vice chairman of the House Human Services Committee. According to Frank, the legislation is intended to protect faith-based adoption providers from legal retaliation when they use their religious convictions to guide them in making foster care and adoption decisions.
HB 3859 will allow faith-based foster care organizations to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, couples who are not Christians and single mothers. It would also allow these agencies to send children to religious schools and deny referral of abortion and birth control services to women.
The bill has drawn sharp criticism from progressive groups who say it exacerbates the problems of the state’s foster care system which is strained with so many abused children that at times there is a shortage of places for them to stay.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement, “This law was never about the best interests of Texans or of children, but about forwarding a political agenda to codify the permission to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans into state law,” Ellis said. “Discrimination has won in Texas, and it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a deserving family simply because they are LGBTQ.”
Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas said of the bill, “HB 3859 will allow child welfare organizations, agencies, employees, and foster parents that contract with the state to discriminate against LGBTQ families and others when making foster care and adoption decisions. The only consideration for a child welfare agency, organization, its employees, and foster parents should always be the best interests of the child – not advancing the interests or beliefs of a state contractor. It is our continued fear that implementation of this legislation could jeopardize the health and well-being of children in state care.”
Frank defended his bill by saying that its passage would increase the number of agencies providing placement in more diverse social and religious settings. “It encourages all to participate. It’s about specialization, not discrimination. It does not ban anybody,” he said.