Multiple bills filed this week in the Tennessee General Assembly would allow adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious objections.
One bill, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, specifies that an adoption agency would not be required to provide services to a couple if it would conflict with the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and prevents the state or a local government from taking adverse action against the group.
Legislation filed by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, puts in place similar protections for discrimination based on religious beliefs and would prevent a couple from suing the adoption agency for refusing to provide services.
“We were concerned that adoption agencies, such as religious adoption agencies, would be required to allow adoption when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles,” Hensley said. “That they would be forced to allow adoptions to people they felt were not appropriate parents, so we didn’t want those agencies to not be able to provide adoptions.”
Hensley pointed to a decision by Catholic Charities in New York to end its adoption program due to the state prohibiting adoption agencies from discriminating based on sexual orientation.
He said he is unaware of any adoption agencies in Tennessee that have felt pressure to close over policies on same-sex adoption, which is permitted in Tennessee.
Similar legislation passed last year in both Kansas and Oklahoma.