Criticism is mounting against a Texas bill that would empower adoption providers to reject potential parents who conflict with their religious beliefs.
The bill, which is expected to come up for a state House vote as early as Monday, gives both privately funded and state-funded child welfare agencies the right to deny services on the basis of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Civil rights groups and other critics say such a policy would entitle agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, single parents, interfaith couples and any couples whose religions differ from that of the service provider.
The bill’s author, Rep. James Frank (R), says it’s aimed at creating a diversity of child welfare service providers and allowing people to remain steadfast in their religious beliefs while still helping children.
Angela Sugarek, a Houston educator who finalized two adoptions with her wife last month, spoke out against the bill’s implications.
“If you are going to accept state money, then you shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate,” she told HuffPost on Sunday.
“The huge irony for us is, I’m a middle school principal, my wife is an assistant principal. So we are, as a lesbian couple, good enough to educate your children, but we’re not good enough to adopt the ones who no one else wants?” she asked.
The bill could legitimize a discrimination Sugarek said she and her wife already sensed when they began seeking out adoption around three years ago.
“We could never really put our finger on the fact that [our trouble adopting] was because we were a lesbian couple, however, we had to fight tooth and nail for them,” she said of her four- and five-year-old sons.
The Texas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the proposal and urged constituents to call their representatives.
“We simply cannot afford to turn away any loving families who are willing and able to welcome vulnerable children into their homes,” the organization stated, noting that 22,000 Texas children are currently waiting for placement.
The Human Rights Campaign also slammed the bill and called it a violation of the Constitution.
“As a governmental entity, Texas is bound to treat people equally under the law,” Catherine Oakley, the group’s senior legislative counsel, told The Associated Press. “This is a violation of equal protection under the law.”
Such legislation is not unique to Texas. Five other states have passed similar proposals, the AP noted.
In addition to the adoption implications, the bill allows child welfare agencies to place the children under their care in religious schools and block them from obtaining abortion services and contraceptives.