A new “religious freedom” bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ couples based on their “mission” has cleared a key subcommittee and moved forward in the Georgia Senate.
State Sen. William Ligon (R-St. Simons Island), the bill’s main sponsor, tried to get similar legislation passed last year too, tacking the “mission” language onto a bill that had already gone through a lengthy review process. The bill, HB 159, was eventually stripped of the language, but Ligon’s hateful add-on nearly derailed comprehensive adoption reform that would’ve completely revitalized Georgia’s adoption system.
Today, HB 159 has been passed by both legislative chambers and is awaiting Gov. Deal’s signature.
Ligon’s addition last year caused considerable uproar, with observers complaining it felt like he’d snuck it into the bill at the eleventh hour. Jeff Graham, executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Georgia Unites, called Ligon’s addition a “shameful act of political maneuvering” that was designed to “discriminate against same-sex couples.”
Even with HB 159 nearly state law, it seems Ligon won’t end his crusade.
Ligon’s new bill, SB 375, would allow private adoption agencies to receive public funds then turn around and use that government money to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. Not only is this discrimination regressive and backwards, it’s also likely illegal.
Sean Young, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia, said allowing agencies that receive taxpayer funds to discriminate likely violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, regardless of the agency’s “mission.”
There are thousands of kids who need a loving home in Georgia’s adoption system and caring LGBTQ couples who could offer those kids just that. And what about the LGBTQ kids who need to be adopted? How could they possibly feel loved and accepted by adults who discriminate against others based on their LGBTQ identity?
Earlier this year, Sen. Ligon said he wanted to revitalize this so-called “religious liberty” issue so that “the people of this state will see exactly where their government stands on this issue.” By that he means he wants LGBTQ people to see that their government doesn’t support equality for them, and if this bill passes, that will be the truth.