Bill Says Adoption Agencies Have 'Inalienable Right to Free Exercise of Religion'
Children in Alabama who need good homes may find it harder to get adopted. In March the Alabama House passed a bill allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, based on the agency's "sincerely held religious beliefs." On Wednesday, the Alabama Senate passed the same bill.
The Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, also known as HB24,Â would even allow adoption agencies to cite its "sincerely held religious beliefs" and refuse to place children with blood relatives. As HRC notedÂ last month, even a "qualified, loving LGBTQ grandparent, for example, could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law."
Rather than protect the rights of individuals, or place the needs of the children first, the bill specifically states its intent is to "prohibit the state from discriminating against child placing agencies." It uses the word "religion" or "religious" 27 times.
The Senate sponsor of the bill is Republican State Senator Bill Hightower (photo), whose bio says he is or has been aÂ Board member of Bethany Christian Adoption Services, and "is an Advisory Board Member to Outback America, a Christian organization that holds family camps in Mobile and other cities," and os "a Board Chairman of a local Christian School."
"The need for adoption is so high. We need to have every avenue available," Hightower said, defending his legislation, as The Herald Sun reports.Â
In 2016 Alabama had over five thousand children in foster care waiting to be adopted. Only 500 foster children on average are adopted each year.
Hightower's billÂ was sponsored in the House byÂ Republican former NFLÂ linebacker turned lawmaker, Rich Wingo.Â
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 23-9, largely along party lines, as was the House version.
Alabama's Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who just last week became governor after Robert Bentley resigned amid a sex, ethics, and financial scandal, is likely to sign the bill. It needs to return to the House for a final vote, and then wlll be sent to the governor's desk.
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