On Friday, the Georgia State Senate passed a bill that would allow faith-based foster care agencies who receive public money to deny LGBT families the opportunity to adopt children. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 35-19 and is waiting to be pushed through the house. According to State Senator William Ligon, “The Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act” is a way to make sure that religious organizations can continue to participate in the adoption system without compromising their beliefs on LGBTQ unions. Opponents of the bill described it as bigoted and not in the best interest of children.
“We are failing our children by not including everything we can do by ensuring every door of opportunity is open for placement,” said Ligon, the sponsor of the bill. “For centuries, churches, people of faith have worked to rescue children from desperate circumstances and put them in loving homes.”
In positioning the bill as a means to empower agencies to do more work, Ligon glossed over the fact that the bill allows organizations that discriminate on a religious basis to do so without any danger of losing their public funding. And some opponents don’t think Ligon’s seemingly altruistic reasoning behind the bill is strong enough. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was quick to portray the bill as political grandstanding and point out that faith-based adoption agencies can already discriminate against LGBTQ families without compromising their funding. State Senator Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat and an opponent of the bill, argued that LGBTQ families practice faith all the time and that the bill is ludicrous for asserting that a “same-sex couple cannot constitute a faith-based family.”
As Georgian politicians battle over the bill’s legitimacy, the U.S. foster care system is bursting at the seams. Currently, there are close to half a million kids in the foster care system and not enough homes to put them in. According to Dr. John de Garmo, an expert on the foster care system, the opioid crisis is playing a huge role. In an interview with Fatherly, de Garmo noted that opioid addiction has brought about a 32 percent increase in drug-related foster care cases between 2012 to 2016. Even without considering the opiate crisis specifically, Georgia saw a 75 percent increase in the number of children placed into foster care in 2016. Nationally, according to de Gamo, the turnover rate for foster parents is also somewhere between 30 and 50 percent. This has led some to point out that erecting barriers between children and loving homes is even more irresponsible now that it would otherwise be.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s new adoption bill is far from the first of its kind. Last year Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 3859 which similarly allows child placement agencies that receive taxpayer money to discriminate against LGBTQ families on a religious basis. That bill passed in a state with 30,000 children currently in foster care.