Tennessee has just made history. Unfortunately, it’s anti-gay history.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) signed a measure on Friday that legalizes the rejection of same-sex parents from adopting. Specifically, the law allows the argument that adoption agencies have a legitimate fear that same-sex households would “violate written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
“The governor believes that protection of rights is important, especially religious liberty,” Gillum Ferguson, a spokesman for Gov. Lee, told the Tennessean. “This bill is centered around protecting the religious liberty of Tennesseans and that’s why he signed it.”
According to The Hill, the bill not only uses religious freedom as an excuse to discriminate against same-sex couples. The signed bill, which now immediately goes into effect, also prohibits the state from denying an agency’s licenses or grant applicants for public funds based on its child placement refusals.
The bill was supported almost unanimously by the state’s Republican officials. State Sen. Steve Dickerson was the only Republican to vote against the measure, alongside the Senate’s only five Democrats, as it was passed in the Tennessee Senate 20 to 6 earlier this month. Meanwhile, an additional five Republicans chose to abstain from the vote. With that vote and signing, Tennessee now joins a handful of states, such as Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Mississippi, Virginia, and Michigan, who hold similar laws.
Meanwhile, many LGBTQ organizations are decrying this freshly passed and signed bill.
“It’s disturbing that Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that will harm children in Tennessee,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Elected officials should protect all of their constituents, not just some. Now, Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year. This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans. With many months ahead in the Tennessee legislative session, Tennesseans should make their voices heard — loudly — to ensure that the legislature and Gov. Lee do not continue to target LGBTQ Tennesseans.”