Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that would allow child welfare service providers to deny certain care based on the provider’s ‘sincerely held religious beliefs.’
This bill, House Bill 3859, was signed on Thursday 15 June. Going into effect this September, the bill would allow discrimination toward LGBTI couples looking to adopt and permit LGBTI children in the agency’s care to be put through ‘religious education.’
House Bill 3859 affects adoption agencies, group homes, counseling services, etc. With this bill, agencies could legally refuse to help children on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
‘After a legislative session full of attacks on LGBTQ Texans, today, Gov. Abbott has codified anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law by signing HB 3859,’ said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and adoptive parent, on Thursday.
‘This “Slate of Hate” that the Texas legislature has made a priority harms LGBTQ Texans. This law will now prioritize discrimination over the best interests of children looking for a loving, stable home. That is unconscionable, and we implore Gov. Abbott not to further pursue any further forms of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.’
Discrimination cloaked in religion is still discrimination. Shame on Texas. https://t.co/nXQqwLiRQX
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 17, 2017
Religious minorities, such as Jews and Muslims, as well as single parents and interfaith couples could also be affected by the bill.
‘This [bill] would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief,’ Catherine Oakley, senior legislative counsel for HRC, said in May before the bill was signed into law.
The only thing child welfare providers can be penalized for under House Bill 3859 is denying welfare services on the basis of race.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, released the following statement after the bill was signed Thursday:
‘Lawmakers used religion as a weapon to pass a bill that not only harms qualified candidates who want to start families, but children. 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. 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.’
From the perspective of those who’ve been there
‘In an ideal world, child welfare agencies would be able to remove children from abusive family environments and either provide services to that child’s family of origin with the goal of eventually returning that child home, or find another family that can better care for the child through foster care or adoption,’ writes Kristopher Sharp, a gay man who spent his childhood in the Texas foster care system.
‘In Texas, however, far too many children linger in the system until they become adults. For queer and trans youth, that almost certainly means a childhood hallmarked by a closeted identity, extreme instability, and a constant threat of violence by peers and caregivers.’
‘The cycle of abuse we are forced to endure inflicts a degree of trauma that lasts well after we exit the system. Homelessness, unemployment, instability, and incarceration are the norm once foster children become adults.’
GSN has reached out to Governor Abbott’s office for comment.