Texas GOP lawmakers are leading a crusade to enact some of the harshest immigration and religious laws in the country. Following the passage of a pernicious "show me your papers" bill aimed at immigrants, Republican state congressmen are attempting to pass another discriminatory bill that targets Texas's LGBTQ community. House Bill 3859 would allow adoption agencies to reject potential parents based on their sexual orientation. Despite sharp criticism from House Democratic lawmakers, HB3859 passed through the House on May 9 and will head to the Senate for a vote.
Called the "Freedom to Serve Children Act," HB3859 would extend "religious liberty" to the Texas child welfare system, meaning state care workers would be afforded the freedom to refuse services if they infringe upon their religious beliefs. If the provider is able to prove "sincerely held religious beliefs," the proposed bill would legally protect agents of the state from discrimination claims.
While the proposed legislation protects faith-based organizations' right to refuse service, it also mandates an alternative if service is refused. House Representative James Frank, author of HB3859, told CNN that the bill simply seeks to preserve religious institutions' freedom. "[HB3859] specifically requires the state to ensure that alternate providers are available to offer any services that a faith-based provider declines to provide due to religious conflicts," Frank said in a statement.
Critics have lined up to denounce the bill. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas described HB3859 as "opening the door to widespread discrimination and disregard of laws that should be equally applicable to all Texans." The legal and policy director of the ACLU, Rebecca Robertson, also echoed this statement.
"All of us can agree that when religious beliefs can be accommodated without imposing on the rights of others, our laws should protect people of faith from government intrusion," Robertson said. Democratic lawmakers are equally as perturbed by the law's passage through the House and its potential to harm children purely because an adult rejects another adult's beliefs.
"We're further casting these children off. We're making it more difficult for them to be adopted," Democratic House Representative Jessica Farrar said.