Pair of Harmful Bills Impede Adoption of Children in Need of Loving Homes

by HRC Staff

MONTGOMERY— Today, HRC Alabama criticized the introduction of two bills, S.B. 261 and H.B. 296, which empower adoption agencies to discriminate against eligible parents and guardians—legislation which, if passed, will deny countless children from accessing loving, caring homes. Though written in the guise of allowing private agencies to cite religious reasons for turning down applications, the bills have a host of unintended consequences. Many of Alabama’s private adoption agencies maintain large public contracts, and the new bill would allow otherwise eligible interfaith couples, same-sex couples, and couples where one individual was previously divorced the opportunity to care for a child in need. Essentially, taxpayers will be funding adoption agencies who are allowed to discriminate.

“Decisions about prospective parents should be based on the best interest of the child, not on discriminatory factors unrelated to good parenting,” said HRC Alabama state director R. Ashley Jackson. “This legislation is yet another example of legislators in Montgomery hoping to permanently stain Alabama’s national reputation. These bills do nothing more than open the door to discrimination against diverse families who seek adoption.”

If signed into law, this bill would allow private child placement agencies acting in lieu of the state to discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity and family status.
o   Agencies could prefer single women over single men.
o   Agencies could prohibit interfaith couples from adopting.
o   Agencies could prefer couples or individuals who adhere to the faith of the agency‘s religious entity or refuse service to individuals of certain faiths altogether.

If the bills are passed and agencies deny services due to religious beliefs, the government would be prohibited from refusing to enter into a contract; refusing to renew a contract; canceling a contract; taking an enforcement action against the entity; refusing to issue a license; refusing to renew a license; or canceling a license. When agencies act in the stead of the state, they should be bound by principles of non-discrimination even if they are private agencies.

HRC Alabama is also tracking another harmful bill to LGBT Alabamians, H.B. 56. That legislation would allow probate judges and public officials to cite a religious reason for denying marriage licenses, putting interfaith couples, interracial couples, same-sex couples and unions where one partner is a divorcee at risk.

HRC Alabama is working to advance equality for LGBT Alabamians who have no state or municipal level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations; and legal state recognition for their relationships and families. Through HRC Alabama, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.

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