Alabama Is Now Trying to Shield Religious Discrimination in Adoption

Not content with ignoring the authority of the federal courts on same-sex marriage, Alabama’s lawmakers are now trying to ensure that even if same-sex marriage were to come to the state, same-sex couples looking to adopt could still face lawful discrimination from adoption agencies.

Currently, state adoption law allows married people and single people to adopt. Those provisions, of course, aren’t expressly LGBT-inclusive, and at the moment the courts have interpreted the law as preventing same-sex couples from jointly adopting. Obviously Alabama, like many states, uses marriage to trigger joint adoption rights — and you’ve probably already guessed where this is going.

The Alabama Supreme Court’s baffling stand upholding the state’s same-sex marriage ban and defying the federal courts has been discussed at length. Yet even state lawmakers sense that the Supreme Court of the United States is likely to strike same-sex marriage bans when it hands down its decision in June of this year–meaning that, despite the state’s best efforts, marriage equality may soon arrive within its borders. As such, it appears lawmakers are concerned about what that could mean for adoption rights, and as usual they’re using religion as a tool to discriminate.

Republican State Senator Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa recently introduced a bill that would give private adoption agencies the right to refuse to serve married gay couples who are seeking to adopt. The kicker here is that the bill contains a clause saying that religious adoption agencies can discriminate even if they are receiving government money. The legislation actually goes further than just harming same-sex couples though.

The bill would allow any adoption agency the right to “refuse to participate in adoptions and foster care placements that violate their religious beliefs.” This wouldn’t just cover same-sex couples, then. As with most religious right-to-discriminate bills, it potentially puts all disfavored classes including racial minorities and religious minorities at risk. For instance, would an adoption agency grant an adoption to a Muslim couple if the agency decides that this would be condoning another religious interpretation in the face of their “one true faith?”

The law also contains another provision, and one that further privileges religious discrimination. The legislation specifically notes that no government agency will be able to threaten or remove funding from religious adoption agencies that do discriminate. While obviously federally protected classes would still be able to take a suit to the federal courts, this means that they are unlikely to have state support if they have faced, for instance, racist discrimination. While it is true that same-sex couples could still use secular or welcoming agencies, it’s undeniable that a good portion of adoption agencies do have a religious affiliation. This furthers a climate of uncertainty for same-sex couples and other vulnerable minorities who, by choosing to adopt, are already entering into a highly stressful process.

This legislation is likely influenced by what happened in Illinois in 2011. The state had previously passed a non-discrimination law that was LGBT-inclusive. Religious adoption agencies who contracted with the state government were later informed that as soon as equivalent partnership rights were granted to same-sex couples (first civil unions and later marriages), the agencies would have to provide services to same-sex couples or they would be in violation of that law. Contrary to some misinformation, Catholic Charities were not forced out of the state. It chose to close rather than follow the law, meaning it stopped providing care and services for hundreds of children simply because it could not take state funds and discriminate.

We may feel it is acceptable that private religious adoption agencies be able to cater to people who share their interpretation of the faith. I would argue that even then, the focus should be on providing children with the best care they can have, irrespective of other factors like the make-up of the couple involved. However, we can all agree that agencies that take state money should not be allowed to use that money to discriminate solely on the basis of sexuality, religious affiliation or other characteristics.

Sadly, Alabama isn’t alone in this pursuit. Florida and Michigan are already pushing for similar bills, and it looks as though other states will follow in relatively short order.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s House has already passed a bill that would enable probate judges to refuse to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples without facing legal consequences. Another bill is slated to be introduced shortly that will specifically carve out exemptions to ensure that florists, cake shop owners, photographers and mostly anyone providing goods and services can refuse to serve same-sex couples. What all this adds up to is a legal situation in America where some states will be no-go areas for LGBTs if they want to still have any kind of legal recognition for their partnerships and families and the ability to access simple services like catering and other goods.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

77 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Ron C.
Ron C3 years ago

Every time I encounter a right wing conservative I make the comment "It must be getting embarrassing to be a conservative".....if they ask why just regale them with as many examples as you would like...there are plenty to choose from...and it is always quite easy to keep the examples contemporary...hopefully the odd one will realize the ideology they hold dear is shared by a large group of complete idiots.

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Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago

of course they are

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Brian Schrader
Brian Schrader3 years ago

I'm not surprised at all.

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Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

PART 1
Florida shamefully passed HB7111. In his "evil speech of evil", GOP Rep. Jason Brodeur said the bill would apply to only a handful of the state’s 82 private adoption agencies. If gay couples want to adopt, they can go to the Dept of Children and Families or an agency that doesn’t have religious or moral objections to their raising a child.
Dem. Rep. Dave Kerner said no agency, regardless of whether it’s religion based, should discriminate against anyone — especially if it’s receiving state money. “We should be thanking gay parents for adopting ... and blessing them. We should not be using our time here in the Legislature to continue these antiquated beliefs that folks that have a different sexual orientation than us would not make good parents.”
According to an ACLU attorney: “The state can’t use religious criteria to place children in state custody. And since the state can’t do that itself, the folks that they hire to do the government’s job can’t do that either.”

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Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

PART 2
Carlos Smith of Equality Florida said, “These agencies are contracted by the state to do the work of government. They are funded by taxpayers to do this, which means this bill is even worse than Indiana. It promotes state-sanctioned and taxpayer-funded discrimination.” (I’ve contacted Brodeur to tell him that I don’t want MY tax dollars paying for discrimination.)
Florida National Organization for Women lobbyist Barbara DeVane said the bill will hurt children. “If you call yourself a Christian, just ask yourself: How would Jesus vote today? My Bible says we are all made in God’s image, not some of us.”
Check out this video of a 10-year-old adopted by two dads. Nathaniel was young and the agency thought he’d find a new home quickly, but his brother was considered “unadoptable” because he was “too old”. Two dads fought to adopt both boys, and eventually added an autistic sibling who was languishing in a child care facility. https://youtu.be/pQ1iNsB5-QM

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pam w.
pam w3 years ago

Interesting....all these comments and not ONE supporting the decision?

Can it be there are no bigoted FANS here? Or is it that they're ashamed to comment positively, knowing how everyone else feels?

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Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

The bill would allow any adoption agency the right to “refuse to participate in adoptions and foster care placements that violate their religious beliefs.”
I have to ask what one of these “religious” adoption agencies would do with a child that identified as transgender. Force the child to accept the body he/she was born in, or abandon him/her altogether?
Now the religious right is turning children into pawns. So much for Jesus saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.” Well, they’ve got the “suffer” right, if nothing else.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA S3 years ago

noted,thank you

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