Tennessee lawmakers are working to become the latest state to ensure faith-based adoption agencies can refuse to place children with gay parents and other families because of their religious beliefs without facing any penalties.
The GOP-dominant House on Monday overwhelmingly voted 67-22 in support of the proposal after a brief but tense debate. The bill must now pass the similarly GOP-controlled Senate before it can reach Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for final approval.
Lee hasn’t said publicly whether he supports the legislation but his religious faith has often been a cornerstone of his political career. Kansas and Oklahoma enacted similar laws last year
Supporters argue that while faith-based adoption agencies in Tennessee have been operating without issue, the move is needed to protect against potential lawsuits hostile to the group’s religious beliefs.
Furthermore, if the proposal becomes law, current adoption practices in the state aren’t expected to change. Some faith-based agencies already do not allow gay couples to adopt. But this measure would provide legal protections to agencies that do. For example, denied applicants couldn’t sue an agency for damages if the religious belief or moral conviction was cited as a reason.