The Alabama House approved a bill yesterday that would allow child adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples with impunity.
Under the bill, HB24, the state would be banned from penalizing or refusing to license an organization because it “declines to carry out an activity that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the agency” — essentially allowing foster care agencies the right to turn down prospective parents because they’re gay or transgender without any threat of blowback from the state.
Alabama joins a number of states, including Michigan and South Dakota, that have countered the growing tide of LGBT rights with so-called “religious freedom” laws. In Michigan, a law was passed in June of last year that allows faith-based adoption agencies that contract with the state to refuse to serve prospective parents if doing so violates the agencies’ religious beliefs.
Alabama’s contains a key provision that may weaken its overall effect, since its protections only applies to agencies that receive no state funding. According to AL.com, about 30 percent of the state’s adoption agencies are faith-based, and many receive state funding.
But the bill is troubling inasmuch as it represents another potential strike to LGBT people outside of solidly blue states. It relies on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act which has been used as a bludgeon against gays and lesbians. Originally aimed to reinforce America’s “commitment to freedom of conscience,” the act has allowed for religious-exemption legislation to flourish at the state level.
“This bill obviously came about because same-sex marriage was approved,” Rep. Patricia Todd (D), Alabama’s first openly-gay state lawmaker, told AL.com Tuesday. “It’s based in a stereotype. And it’s wrong. And we shouldn’t discriminate and I will always fight that.”