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Tennessee bill permitting anti-LGBTQ+ foster and adoptee parents passes House

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instagram @govbilllee; Shutterstock

Critics contend LGBTQ+ children could be placed in homes hostile to their sexual and gender identity.

The Tennessee state House of Representatives on Monday passed legislation that would bar the state from excluding foster and adopting parents because of their religious or moral beliefs, including on matters of sexual and gender identity, the Tennessean reported.

The legislation passed the Republican-controlled state Senate on March 21 and now awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Bill Lee.

The bills, HB2169 and SB1738, specifically ban the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) from requiring prospective parents to “affirm, accept, or support any government policy regarding sexual orientation or gender identity that conflicts with the parent's sincerely held religious or moral beliefs.”

“The real concern of this bill is to strengthen the pool of available parents who are able to foster,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Republican state Rep. Mary Littleton, one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “Placements should always be made and consistent in the best interests of the child.”

Democratic legislators and local advocacy groups contend the bill centered parents over children.

“This legislation isn’t concerned, in a very meaningful way, about the children,” Democratic state Rep. Justin Pearson said during a debate on the bill on Monday.

“We call on Governor Lee to veto SB1738/HB2169, which puts more LGBTQ children and youth in danger of being placed in homes that are not accepting of their identities,” Tennessee Equality Project, a state advocacy group, warned in a statement. “Bad placements lead to running away, self-harm, and increased depression and anxiety. Adoption and foster care policy must be based on the best interest of the child, not the political interests of a few adults.”

TEP also says the legislation conflicts with federal law and could lead to the dangerous prospect of LGBTQ+ children being placed with parents hostile to their sexual or gender identity.

According to the text of the bills, the proposed law would not prevent the DCS from taking the beliefs of prospective parents into account when placing the child, instead noting it “must be read in harmony with the duty of the department to make placements consistent with the best interests of the child.”

Despite those assurances, however, critics say the legislation opens the door to the placement of LGBTQ+ children in non-affirming homes in violation of federal law.

“This bill focuses on the wishes of a few adults,” TEP continued in its statement. “It increases the likelihood that children will be mismatched with homes where they are not accepted as they are.”

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