AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House of Representatives has advanced a bill that provides protections to foster care and adoption agencies operating in accordance with their faith.
House Bill 3859 was approved 94-51 on Tuesday amid opposition from Democrats who asserted that the move was discriminatory against homosexuals, “transgenders” and those of other religions.
“A governmental entity or any person that contracts with this state or operates under governmental authority to refer or place children for child welfare services may not discriminate or take any adverse action against a child welfare services provider on the basis, wholly or partly, that the provider has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for child welfare services that conflict with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider ’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” the bill reads in part.
It also provides protections for agencies who intend to enroll children in religious educational institutions, as well as those who decline to provide referrals for abortion or contraceptives.
“This provides a reasonable accommodation to those who are helping solve our foster care crisis,” bill author Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls told the Statesman. “This bill will make more foster care homes available.”
Democrats had proposed amendments to the legislation to prohibit organizations from making decisions based on the prospective family’s religion, “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” but those proposals were rejected.
“HB 3859, while well-intentioned, blurs the goals of the legislature,” said Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston. “Rather than addressing the findings laid before us by the bluntly accurate court case, we’re now taking the consideration of the providers over the best interests of the child.”
However, Frank noted that most adoptions are through Child Protective Services, which would not be affected by the law. He said that the language only applies to religious organizations involved in foster care and adoption in order to protect them from punishment for operating in accordance with their faith.
“This is really to give quick, clear certainty to providers so they can take care of children instead of fighting lawsuits,” Frank explained. “We want to make reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system. Everyone is welcome, but you don’t have to think alike to participate.”
“My guess is if you have an LGBT agency they’re going to pick an LGBT family, and if you have a Baptist agency they may be more likely to pick a Baptist family,” he also noted. “They’re free to do that and should be free to do that.”
Faith-based adoption agencies in the state include Christian Homes & Family Services, Generations Adoptions, Buckner International, ChristianWorks for Children, and Arrow Child & Family Ministries.