AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Latest on a Texas bill allowing adoption agencies to raise "religious objections" to would-be adoptive parents (all times local):
Publicly funded adoption agencies that ban non-Christian, unmarried, or gay prospective parents could soon be shielded by the state of Texas.
The House voted 94-51 late Tuesday night to give preliminary approval to legislation that would allow adoption firms receiving state funding to reject applicants on religious grounds.
Texas' "Freedom to Serve Children Act" requires a final vote Wednesday before moving to the state Senate.
Its author, Rep. James Frank, says it's designed to keep faith-based organizations offering adoption services by shielding them from potential lawsuits
Many religious adoption agencies say they don't work with adoptive parents who are gay, non-Christian or unmarried.
But civil advocates say it violates the Constitution by funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.
Democrats in the Texas House are questioning why the state should allow adoption and foster care agencies to raise "sincerely held religious beliefs" allowing them to keep from working with some would-be adoptive families.
A bill being considered lets private agencies getting state funding reject adoptive parents or families who are gay, non-Christian or for other reasons.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. James Frank, says it is designed to encourage more people of all faiths and sexual orientations to adopt or take in foster children. He says many agencies are religiously affiliated and already only work with certain types of families — and want more protection from lawsuits.
But Austin Democratic Rep. Donna Howard says, "I truly want to see something that doesn't create so much concern and fear."
The Texas House has begun debating a contentious bill that would officially sanction adoption agencies that reject prospective parents based on religious grounds, marital status and sexual orientation.
The agencies are private but receive state funding. Many freely admit they already routinely deny non-Christian, gay, and unmarried applicants because they are wary of their beliefs or lifestyle.
The bill by Republican Rep. James Frank of Wichita Falls and several conservative co-sponsors would codify the practice in state law. Agencies say they hope it will shield them from lawsuits.
But the measure has sparked outcry among civil groups, which say it allows the use of state funding to sanction discrimination.
State-funded adoption agencies backing Texas legislation that would sanction the rejection of prospective parents on religious grounds freely admit they already routinely deny non-Christian, gay, and unmarried applicants because they are wary of their beliefs or lifestyle.
The organizations are paid by the state to place foster children with adoptive families. They want to continue the practice and are seeking legal protections through Texas' "Freedom to Serve Children Act," which is up for consideration Tuesday in the GOP-controlled House.
The bill would be the nation's second allowing state-funded adoption agencies to reject families on religious grounds. South Dakota passed similar legislation in March.
Sponsors say it protects religious objections already being raised by adoption agencies. But civil groups say it sanctions discrimination.