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Alabama Bill Seeks License to Discriminate in Adoption Services

Alabama Bill Seeks License to Discriminate in Adoption Services

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The measure would let faith-based agencies, even those that receive public funds, turn away same-sex couples or others who offend the agency's religious beliefs.

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The Alabama Supreme Court has already blocked marriage rights for same-sex couples, and now a state legislator is trying to make it more difficult for them to adopt children.

State Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa, a Republican, last week introduced a bill that would allow private adoption agencies, even those that have contracts with the state, "to refuse to participate in adoptions and foster care placements that violate their religious beliefs," the Associated Press reports. This could include placements with same-sex couples or with people whose religions are frowned upon by the agency.

"The bill would also prohibit the state from refusing to license, or contract with, the groups that refuse services to people on religious grounds," the AP continues.

Allen said he seeks to protect faith-based agencies in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court rules for marriage equality. Eric Johnston, an attorney who worked on the bill, told the AP, "It's not that they are discriminating against same-sex couples, they are observing their own rights and beliefs."

Some states, such as Illinois, have ended contracts with religiously affiliated adoption agencies because they discriminate against same-sex couples. And in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities ceased offering adoption services rather than comply with state antidiscrimination law.

Similar legislation seeking a so-called right to discriminate for adoption agencies is currently advancing in Michigan and Florida.

Johnston said same-sex couples in Alabama would still be free to adopt through secular agencies or other providers that have no objection to serving them. Officials with the Human Rights Campaign, however, said the measure would create taxpayer-funded discrimination.

"Decisions about prospective parents should be based on the best interest of the child, not on discriminatory factors unrelated to good parenting," said HRC Alabama state director R. Ashley Jackson in a blog post. "This legislation is yet another example of legislators in Montgomery hoping to permanently stain Alabama's national reputation. These bills do nothing more than open the door to discrimination against diverse families who seek adoption."

In addition to letting agencies discriminate against same-sex couples, the HRC points out, the bill would allow refusal of services to interfaith couples or prospective parents who practice a religion different from the provider's.

And Alabama isn't through with introducing discriminatory legislation. A bill will probably be introduced this session that would allow florists, bakers, and others to deny wedding-related services to same-sex couples without legal consequences, Johnston told the AP. A measure that would allow public officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses on religious grounds has already passed one chamber of the legislature.

Marriage equality came to Alabama in February through a federal judge's ruling, but early in March the state Supreme Court ordered county probate judges, who issue marriage licenses, to cease granting them to same-sex couples. Court battles over the matter are continuing.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.