Alabama legislators have approved a bill that would protect the state licenses of adoption agencies that follow faith-based policies, such as refusing to place children with same-sex couples.
House Bill 24, which now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature, would not protect the licenses of agencies that receive state or federal funds, but opponents say it is still state-sanctioned discrimination, reports AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers.
“This bill obviously came about because same-sex marriage was approved,” said Rep. Patricia Todd, a Birmingham Democrat who is the only openly gay member of the legislature, the site reports. “It’s based in a stereotype. And it’s wrong. And we shouldn’t discriminate and I will always fight that. When a faith-based organization decides to step into either adoption or child care, they should have to follow the same rules and regulations as every other agency.”
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Rich Wingo, countered that the measure is necessary to prevent discrimination against faith-based agencies. Around the nation, some “have been forced to close their doors because they refuse to place children in homes that go against their faith,” he said. That has usually happened, however, with agencies that receive state funding.
The state House of Representatives gave final approval to HB 24 Tuesday, concurring with an amendment the Senate added last week. South Dakota, Michigan, North Dakota, and Virginia have similar laws, according to the Associated Press.
Equality Alabama denounced the legislation. “The Alabama House of Representatives proved today that they don’t have the best interest of the nearly 5,000 children in Alabama’s child placing systems in mind,” board chair Alex Smith said in a Tuesday press release. “This bill robs these children of a loving home and gives the state’s seal of approval to unnecessary religious exemptions that open the door to discrimination.” Equality Alabama and the national Equality Federation both called on Ivey to veto the bill.