Tennessee Senate Approves Bill Permitting Faith-Based Agencies to Stop LGBTQ Couples From Adopting

Members of the Senate debate legislation during a session Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.
Members of the Senate debate legislation during a session Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.
Image: via AP

On Tuesday, Tennessee’s State Senate gave its final approval to a bill permitting adoption agencies with specific “written religious or moral convictions or policies” to discriminate against LGBTQ couples applying as prospective parents. Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, is expected to sign the legislation into law.


The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the bill, sponsored by Republican State Senator Paul Rose, passed the Senate by a vote of 20-6. The State House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill by a count of 67-22 in April.

Per the Times Free Press:

As approved, it says “to the extent allowed by federal law, no private licensed child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”

The bill has been condemned by the Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for the LGBT community, as a being a part of a “slate of hate” package of measures pushed by socially conservative GOP lawmakers.

That slate includes several apparent attacks on the LGBTQ community, including a bill that would allow state mental health counselors to come up with their own “ethical code” that could permit them to reject clients who were at odds with their “sincerely held beliefs,” in addition to a so-called “bathroom bill” that would require trans students to use bathrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Interestingly, Tennessee’s Senate Republican speaker, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, voiced opposition to the bill, saying it could pose problems for the state’s Freedom of Religion Act further down the line. Several other Republican lawmakers had concerns, including one who worried Tennessee could face a boycott over the bill. It still passed, and now children at faith-based adoption agencies will be the ones forced to suffer.




Dear Tennessee,

Let me tell you about my best friend. He’s gay. We’ll call him BJ as I know that will titillate you each time you see it. BJ and I met 25 years ago as young adults just escaping abusive childhoods. We were joined at the hip, and in the way that troubled young adults do, we embarked on a summer of dissipation; sex(not with each other,) drugs, and techno. The very hedonism and sin that you love to imagine, including interactions with Transexuals, and using whatever bathroom we felt like. Feeling pretty justified in saying that this gay person is unfit by now, I’d imagine.

However, this story doesn’t end there. We managed to hit rock bottom, and that was the foundation that started our ascent up. Being there at rock bottom can do terrible things to some people, others, it molds them. You learn empathy, love, find your core of strength, and you do it immersed in the most diverse society. Tolerance and acceptance of others becomes your moral fiber.

Adult life went on, I was able to marry and have a child naturally, being cis. BJ had a “partner” he was not allowed to marry, yet did all those normal American things like working, buying cars and houses. I don’t need to tell you that they couldn’t have children naturally. But what they did do was better. They become foster parents. They were excellent at it, eventually the agency learning that they could take the hard cases no one else wanted. Fostering lead to adoption, and since they couldn’t legally marry one of them was the formal adoptive parent, while the other had no legal rights. Eventually they could marry, and the youngest was adopted with two legal parents. This in itself would be pretty great, but again, the story doesn’t end here.

Remember how I said they were good with the so-called “hard cases?” The first two boys adopted were so abused that there was traumatic brain injury, a missing kidney, and a host of other emotional, cognitive, and physical disabilities as a result. The State couldn’t place them, and had left these two abused and fragile boys in a juvenile detention center. Yet, these gay men, who you would deny, took these boys in. Gave them love, stability and joy in their lives. The 3rd boy they adopted later was also abused and had has developmental disabilities on top of it.

At this point in our lives,as BJ and I would joke about going from divas to moms, I managed to convince BJ to do a training on disability rights advocacy thru an organization I was involved in. He thrived. He has the skills and the passion to fight for those boy’s rights, and he does. But he took it further, further than even I, the biological parent of a child with special needs. He joined some other groups, disability pride, intersectionality of disability and race (his 3rd adoptive son is Black.), adoptive parents of disabled kids. He was tearing it up. Then he started his own advocacy group, one that taps into an elusive resource in the disability advocacy community; fathers.

This is the man you’d deny a family. These are the kids you’d deny a loving, stable, home. This man puts this heterosexual parent to shame. And for what? Because of who he loves? Someone in a stable relationship that’s lasted over two decades, someone with a heart bigger than anyone I know. Someone who will make these kids, and many others along the way, have better, more fulfilled lives. Your policy would leave these boys in juvenile detention for the sin of being severely abused. Your policy would silence an amazing advocate for disability rights. Your policy denies thousands of loving, stable, homes the option of having families. Your policy is the abusive one. Your policy will fail.