Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill allowing adoption agencies, even those that receive state funds, to discriminate against LGBT people or anyone else who offends the operator's religious beliefs.
Under House Bill 3859, which Abbott signed today, "child welfare providers will be allowed to deny adoptions and other services to children and parents based on "sincerely held religious beliefs,'" The Texas Tribune reports.
It also means faith-based agencies can "place a child in a religious school; deny referrals for certain contraceptives, drugs or devices; and refuse to contract with other organizations that don't share their religious beliefs," according to the publication.
Those that turn away children or prospective parents on religious grounds are required to make a referral to another agency, and proponents of the legislation said this means it is not discriminatory. LGBT rights advocates, however, begged to differ.
"This new law will have dramatic consequences on same-sex couples across Texas who are looking to open their homes and their hearts to children in need," said Kasey Suffredini, Freedom for All Americans' acting CEO and president of strategy, in an emailed statement. "It will have devastating consequences on LGBT youth, who now can be forced into dangerous practices like conversion therapy. Adults should always be looking out for children, and acting with their best interests at heart -- and this new law runs contrary to that basic value."
In addition to allowing discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBT individuals, the law provides cover for agencies turn away a variety of others based on religious objections, such as single parents, interfaith couples, divorced people, and members of other faiths, opponents pointed out.
"Lawmakers used religion as a weapon to pass a bill that not only harms qualified candidates who want to start families, but children," said a statement issued by Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. "This law was never about the best interests of Texans or of children, but about forwarding a political agenda to codify the permission to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans into state law. Discrimination has won in Texas, and it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a deserving family simply because they are LGBTQ."