by Nick Morrow •
Bill would allow discrimination by child welfare agencies if signed into law.
HRC called out the Texas Senate for approving the discriminatory HB 3859, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations -- including adoption and foster care agencies -- to turn away qualified Texans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. It also could harm children in care; HB 3859 would forbid the state from canceling a state contract with an agency that subjected children in their care to dangerous practices such as so-called “conversion therapy.” The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
HB 3859 is just the latest bill in a slate of unconscionable anti-LGBTQ bills being pursued by the Texas legislature, which is undertaking a systematic effort to roll back the rights of LGBTQ Texans, piece by piece.
“HB 3859 is a dangerous, discriminatory bill that shows the type of overarching anti-LGBTQ animus that is coloring so much of the Texas legislature this session,” said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign and a foster and adoptive parent. “This ‘Slate of Hate’ that the Texas legislature has made a priority harms LGBTQ Texans. It is unconscionable that a bill would prioritize discrimination over the best interest of kids in the child welfare system, but Texas lawmakers have done just that. As HB 3859 heads to Governor Abbott’s desk, we hope he does not buy into a hateful agenda over the best interest of some of his most vulnerable constituents -- Texas’ children looking for loving, stable homes.”
HB 3859 would enshrine discrimination into Texas law by allowing discrimination in two directions: against prospective parents, and against children in their care.
It would allow state contractors who provide child welfare services to discriminate against qualified same-sex couples seeking to care for a child in need -- including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.
National child welfare organizations such as the Child Welfare League of America, the Donaldson Adoption Institute, North American Council on Adoptable Children and Voice for Adoption have condemned this bill in a letter to lawmakers. This law would most harm children in the system who are awaiting placement in qualified, loving homes and are instead forced to remain in care. Child welfare services should be guided by the overarching principle that guides all family law: all determinations should be in the “best interest of the child.” It isn’t in the best interest of a child to deny them a qualified, loving family simply because that family doesn’t share all of the tenets of the placing agency’s faith.
Further, this bill would have a significant and tremendously harmful impact on children in care. HB 3859 would allow the agencies tasked by the state with caring for these children to put discrimination over the best interests of the child – they are allowed to refuse to provide services that children in care may desperately need, or subject children to care that is contrary to a child’s best interest. For example, this bill would allow an agency responsible for caring for LGBTQ youth to refer that child to a provider of the abusive, discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” if that was consistent with the agency’s religious beliefs, without the state being able to intervene, cancel the contract, or withdraw support in other ways.
Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. HB 3859 will only exacerbate the challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.
HRC has seven field organizers in four offices across Texas who work to mobilize opposition to any anti-LGBTQ legislation. HRC continues to work alongside Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network, the Transgender Education Network of Texas and others on the ground to battle against dangerous or harmful bills that attack the dignity of LGBTQ Texans. As a coalition, we will stand together; we will support and comfort one another; and we will continue to work together until we defeat every bill this session that discriminates against LGBTQ Texans.
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