Tennessee state Republicans started the year not by trying to improve their state’s health or poverty issues but by targeting LGBTQ couples.
The state Senate passed its first bill of the year on Wednesday by allowing religious adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples if they wanted to. The TN House had passed the bill in April.
Tennessee’s GOP Gov. Bill Lee said he would sign the bill as soon as it reached his desk—even though 11 companies, including Amazon and Nike, had signed a letter condemning it.
The Tennessee Equality Project included this in a list of anti-LGBTQ bills they called, “Tennessee’s 2019 Slate of Hate.”
Sponsored by Sen. Paul Rose, R-Covington, the bill allows a licensed adoption agency to avoid participating in a child’a placement if doing so would “violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
Its proponents claimed the controversial measure protected religious freedom. Opponents said it institutionalized discrimination against same-sex couples.
According to the Tennessean, state senator Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, said her childhood friend grew up in the foster care system and suffered sexual and physical abuse.
Her friend is now an adult in a same-sex relationship and has adopted two children, who “had an alternative to be essentially an orphan,” Akbari said.
“To me, it boils down to safety,” she said. “It boils down to them being happy, being free from abuse, and to feel like they belong.”
The bill also prohibits the state from denying an agency’s license or grant application due to such a stance. They would also be protected from lawsuits for such a refusal.