Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law Friday a bill that will allow adoption agencies to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
State senators passed the bill last week, its first major move since the 111th Tennessee General Assembly reconvened earlier this month.
The bill would shelter faith-based adoption agencies from lawsuits by any group claiming discrimination. It prohibits faith-based groups from participating “in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions.”
Some senators warned passing the bill could hinder business in the state, with companies and conventions passing over Tennessee for more gay-friendly states.
However, Lee said he’d sign the bill immediately after its passage. The bill was sent to Lee’s office Tuesday and was signed on Friday
Several organizations criticized the move. The Campaign for Southern Equality called the bill “the first anti-LGBTQ legislation to pass in 2020.”
“We strongly oppose Gov. Lee’s decision and urge him to deeply and prayerfully consider the damage and harm of this bill, which could do a colossal disservice to the many children in Tennessee waiting to be adopted by safe and loving families,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “It opens the door to taxpayer-funded adoption agencies turning away potential parents just because of who they are. It’s bad for kids, bad for LGBTQ people, and bad for the state overall.”
The Human Rights Council (HRC) called the move “shameful.”
“It’s disturbing that Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that will harm children in Tennessee,” said HRC president Alphonso David. “Elected officials should protect all of their constituents, not just some. Now, Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year.
“This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans. With many months ahead in the Tennessee legislative session, Tennesseans should make their voices heard — loudly — to ensure that the legislature and Gov. Lee do not continue to target LGBTQ Tennesseans.”
Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project said, “As this bill becomes law, Tennessee's LGBTQ community is worried about the introduction of even more discriminatory bills. The governor and the legislature must put a stop to this kind of demeaning public policy.”