Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Jan. 15 that he intends to sign into law a bill to protect adoption organizations which place children based on the belief in marriage as a union between a man and woman.
The state Senate approved HB 836 on the first day of the 2020 legislative session, Jan. 15, after the House approved it last April. Tennessee has several Catholic Charities agencies that handle adoption cases.
The bill would protect adoption agencies that follow their religious convictions in declining to place children with same-sex couples. Declined applicants would be unable to sue an agency for damages in such a situation, the Associated Press reports.
Although religious adoption agencies in Tennessee have not been prevented from acting out of their moral convictions, the bill comes at a time when Catholic agencies in other states have been shut down or denied access to funding for declining to place children with same-sex couples.
The AP reports that to date, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia, Mississippi and Michigan have all enacted similar protections for adoption agencies to the one being considered in Tennessee. In March 2019, Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel settled with the ACLU and required all adoption agencies to match children with qualified same-sex couples in order to receive state funding.
Senator Paul Rose, Republican sponsor of the bill in the Senate, noted that the Trump administration last year proposed a federal rule change to protect faith-based foster care agencies.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced during Nov. 2019 that it would change its enforcement of previous regulations and propose a new rule, allowing faith-based adoption agencies to continue receiving federal funding while not having to match children with same-sex couples against their religious mission.
The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) praised the change at the time.