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The "Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act" was passed by the Georgia Senate on Friday morning and now heads to the GOP-controlled House and Republican governor Nathan Deal.
The legislation -- introduced by Republican senator William Ligon -- would allow adoption and foster agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, reports Georgia Voice. The state would take no "adverse action" against discriminatory agencies who turn away gay and bi couples over so-called religious objections.
A passionate debate took place on the Senate floor, with bill supporters claiming the legislation will somehow allow more children to be adopted. Defenders of LGBT Georgians fought back unsuccessfully.
"This proposition that we should encourage agencies and change our law and protect agencies that are going to deny loving families the opportunity to adopt is backwards on its face," Nan Orrock, a Democratic senator from Atlanta, said on the Senate floor. "You want more families coming forward to adopt children and reduce the load of children stuck in the foster system? The way that you do that is not to bar LGBT couples from adopting"
The bill passed 35-19. It will head to the GOP-controlled House and the desk of Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican.
Many blasted the vote. Lucas Acosta, the LGBTQ Media Director for the Democratic National Committee, released the following statement:
"Plain and simple, Georgia's Republican lawmakers are discriminating against LGBTQ parents. Rather than focusing on empowering families or uniting children with loving parents, Georgia Republicans want to strip qualified potential parents of their ability to provide for a child in need. With over 400,000 children in foster care nationwide and nearly 14,000 in Georgia alone, the Georgia legislature should be focusing on how it can attract more qualified and loving parents to the system - not rejecting potential homes based on the gender identity or sexual orientation of the parents.
"As the special elections in GA SD-06, HD-117 and HD-119 proved, voters are rejecting the far-right, extremist agenda of Georgia Republicans and will hold them accountable in November."
Georgia Equality plans a March 1 rally at the capital in Atlanta.
"This is mean-spirited legislation that hurts Georgia's families, does an incredible disservice to the thousands of children in the state foster care system, and really threatens our ability to attract vibrant businesses that strengthen our communities - like Amazon," Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality's executive director, said in the statement. "No one is trying to undermine freedom of religion in Georgia - that's why religiously affiliated adoption agencies already enjoy the freedom to work exclusively with families that share their faith values. This legislation goes out of its way to make it harder for loving and committed same-sex couples to start a family - and unfortunately, it's children in need of permanent homes who will pay the steepest price."