The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow adoption and foster care agencies, whether public or private, to refuse to place children in certain homes, depending on the agency's religious affiliation. Supporters say it provides important legal cover from lawsuits, but critics say it allows religious institutions to discriminate against households of different religions, or LGBT parents.
Texas House Bill 3859, titled the “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” was passed with a 93-49 vote, and it now heads to the state Senate for further debate. The bill was pitched by its author, Texas Representative James Frank, as defending the religious freedoms of adoption agencies. About one-quarter of all Texas adoption facilities affiliate with a religion, and Frank said the bill defends these from lawsuits if the agencies deny potential parents based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Similar laws have been passed in five other states, most recently in Alabama. Texas’s would impact the most children, and is the most sweeping, because it includes state-funded agencies, whereas most other such laws do not. The adoption laws are ideologically aligned with those like Indiana’s 2015 “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” signed into law by current Vice President Mike Pence when he was the state’s governor, which allowed a pizza restaurant to deny catering services to gay weddings.