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Abbott Signs Bill Clearing Way for Adoption Agencies to Reject Same-Sex Couples

A bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott allows religious groups to discriminate against gay couples.
A bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott allows religious groups to discriminate against gay couples. Flickr/Blavou
Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday signed a bill that clears the way for faith-based agencies that handle adoptions to screen prospective parents based on their religious beliefs. Opponents of the law believe this will allow adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples.

Representative James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, who authored House Bill 3859, has said he wrote the legislation to help Texas solve its foster care crisis.

Rep. James Frank
Screenshot/Frank campaign website
He said in a statement last month that faith-based adoption agencies are crucial to matching Texas children in foster care with permanent homes — but were considering leaving because they were unable to screen adoption applicants based on their religious beliefs.

"HB 3859 seeks to protect faith-based providers from adverse actions for exercising their deeply held religious beliefs," Frank wrote. He added that legislation requires the Department of Family and Protective Services to ensure alternative providers are available for any applicants denied because of their beliefs.

In other words, separate but equal.

Miller, of the progressive Texas Freedom Network, said gay couples are not the only Texans who may face discrimination because of HB 3859. She said people who belong to other religions, or none at all, could also be rejected by adoption groups, many of which are Christian.

"The fact that this bill is now law reinforces the reputation of Texas as a state run by politicians who are hostile to treating everyone equally under the law,” Miller said.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD, said, "As a mother, it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a loving family in Texas."

According to the text of the bill, HB 3859 will also permit religious groups to enroll children and teens in their care in parochial schools and limit access to contraceptives.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops was among the religious groups that supported the bill, arguing it would allow the church the "freedom to serve children in line with our mission based values." Child welfare groups such as the National Association of Social Workers opposed the bill.
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Zach Despart is the managing editor of the Houston Press and oversees the news and music verticals.
Contact: Zach Despart