The Alabama House advanced a bill this week that would allow faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to refuse service to same-sex families based on the agency's religious beliefs.
The deceptively named "Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act" passed with a 60-14 vote Thursday. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo and seeks to protect the rights of state-funded and licensed adoption agencies to reject LGBT adoptive or foster parents on the grounds of religious freedom.
“This bill unconscionably harms the nearly 5,000 children in Alabama’s child welfare system who are waiting to be placed with a loving and supportive family,” said Eva Kendrick, the Human Rights Campaign's Alabama state manager. “It’s disappointing that legislators in the House seem focused on creating new ways to discriminate against LGBTQ people instead of securing loving homes for these children.”
HB 24 was one of a handful of controversial measures to pass Thursday on what legislators were calling "pro-life day." It was approved alongside HB 89, which would legalize abortion in the state of Alabama and HB 95, which would allow state medical officials to deny services to people based on "sincerely held religious beliefs."
“This is a wasted day in the Alabama Legislature,” said Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery). “There is no reason to take an entire day to address the issues on the calendar today. We didn’t take this long to discuss the General Fund budget or the education budget. Our major responsibility is to come in and do budgets that would benefit the people of this state, but we spend more time on issues like this than budgets themselves.”
Rep. Patricia Todd, an openly gay Democrat from Birmingham, added that the legislation is "a direct attack against my community."
"What your vote says to me—if you vote for this bill—is that Patricia Todd is not qualified to be a fit parent... based on the fact that I love a woman, and it's not based on what is the best placement for the child."
The bills will now move on to a state senate committee hearing before going to a full vote on the senate floor.
Last week, South Dakota passed SB 149, the first piece of anti-LGBT legislation in 2017. It, like HB 24, allows faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to deny services to LGBT families on the basis of religious freedom.