Tuesday night, the Texas House of Representatives gave initial approval of a bill that would allow foster care and adoption services to discriminate against LGBTQ families on the basis of “religious freedom.”
HB 3859 bill covers Texas’s child welfare services, which includes care networks for abused children, foster parenting, counseling, and adoption. Under the bill, a child welfare service provider may choose to decline placing a child into an LGBTQ household if the family conflicts with “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” Because the bill’s wording is vague, religious objections can also be used against Jewish or Muslim families, NBC News reports.
The bill also allows providers to decline referring a person for contraceptives, abortions, and abortion-related drugs based on their religious personal convictions. This mirrors President Donald Trump’s own stance on “religious liberty” and contraceptives, as just last week, he signed an executive order that allows faith-based employers to deny birth control coverage to employees if it doesn’t align with their religious practices.
While five other states have allowed religious adoption groups to use “religious freedom” as grounds when making placement decisions, Texas would also allow adoption agencies funded by the state to discriminate. House Republicans have largely supported the bill, whereas Democratic opposition fears that Christian political beliefs against LGBTQ and non-Christian families could lead to a heavy bias in favor of placing children in Christian households. An official vote is expected to be made today in the House. If passed, it will move onto the Senate.
“I have a real problem with my taxpayer dollars going to discriminate against other Texans, especially to provide the services our state has the responsibility to provide,” Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) said, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Meanwhile, bill author Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls) argues that the measure is a “reasonable” solution based on religious freedom. “This provides a reasonable accommodation to those who are helping solve our foster care crisis,” Frank claimed, according to the Statesman. “This bill will make more foster care homes available.”
Texas’s bill follows a long string of anti-LGBTQ moves that have popped up in red states since Trump took office. An Oklahoma bill vowed to nullify LGBTQ protections in municipalities, the Missouri Senate rejected an LGBTQ protections amendment, and Arkansas struck down LGBTQ protections throughout the state. Texas has also worked against LGBTQ rights earlier this year, when state Republicans introduced a bill that would let officials object to granting marriage licenses to gay couples over religious beliefs. The bill is still being considered by the Senate.
Update 6:40amCT May 11: The House passed the bill in a 93-49 vote Tuesday. It will now head to the Senate.
In response, the Human Right Campaign said in a statement: “HB 3859 is yet another example of Texas legislators’ coordinated efforts to pursue discrimination against LGBTQ people instead of focusing on the best interest of all Texans. If signed into law, this bill would most harm the children in Texas’ child welfare system—kids who need a loving, stable home.”