Becoming a parent in Alabama if you’re gay, lesbian, or transgender could be about to get a lot more difficult. State lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favor of HB24, which would allow adoption and foster care agencies to turn away prospective same-sex or trans applicants on religious freedom grounds — and civil rights advocates say it’s a thinly veiled assault on LGBTQ rights.
The “Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act” passed the Senate last week and was approved by the Alabama House in an 87-0 vote on Tuesday, with six abstentions. It now awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. Ivey was sworn in as governor earlier this month, after her predecessor, Gov. Robert J. Bentley, stepped down in the wake of a sex scandal.
The language of the bill circumvents a federal ruling from March 2016 that struck down Mississippi’s ban on adoption by gay couples, and made same-sex adoption legal in all 50 states. The legislation makes no mention of LGBTQ people. Rather, its stated intention is to “prohibit the state from discriminating against child-placing agencies on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child placement that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider.”
Rep. Rich Wingo, one of the sponsors of HB24, insists that the legislation has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community. “This bill is not about prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from adopting or fostering a child,” he told AL.com when the legislation was first introduced. “It’s about protecting and not discriminating against faith-based agencies that, due to their religious beliefs, could have their right to choose where to place a child taken away from them.”
The bill, if signed, would not only make it legal for adoption agencies to turn away LGBTQ applicants but also allow them to reject single parents, interfaith couples, unmarried couples, or married couples where one parent has previously been divorced.
There are approximately 5,000 children in foster care in Alabama, and according to AL.live, 30 percent of adoption or foster care agencies in the state are run by faith-based organizations.
Critics of the bill are warning Alabama officials that state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ people could have major repercussions.
“This bill is a solution in search of a problem, and the consequences it may bring — such as political and economic fallout similar to what we’ve witnessed in North Carolina,” said Eva Kendrick, Alabama state director for the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement.