Adoption bill would allow Georgia agencies to refuse same-sex couples

Adoption bill would allow Georgia agencies to refuse same-sex couples
Georgia State Capitol

ATLANTA — A bill filed Tuesday would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples.

State Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, said Senate Bill 368 is intended to “preserve choice” for birth mothers who want to ensure their child grows up in a particular religious background.

The bill would allow agencies to refuse to work with couples that violate “certain religious or moral convictions” the agency holds. Harbin said the legislation could apply to people including same-sex couples or atheists.

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“This would not limit any adoption agency,” Harbin said. “We want to make sure the First Amendment right to free exercise is in place. This preserves and protects agencies with these values ... and gives women more options rather than less.”

A previous bill seeking to strengthen legal protections for religious Georgians failed to advance last year.

Civil liberties and business groups have previously opposed so-called “religious liberty” measures, saying they discriminate against gay Georgians.

Gov. Brian Kemp has made increasing the ease of adoption a priority for the current legislative session.

Kemp previously said he would not try to pre-emptively block legislation that would allow agencies to refuse to work with LGBTQ people, but deal with the issue “when the time comes.”

State lawmakers in 2018 made an initial round of far-reaching changes to the state’s adoption process, prompted by advocates who said the laws were so burdensome that many parents were forced to travel to neighboring states to find children.

That legislation reduced adoption waiting times, legalized the reimbursement of birth mothers for their expenses in private adoptions, banned middlemen who profit from arranging adoptions and simplified out-of-state adoptions.

It passed after a major fight at the Georgia Capitol last year over a provision that would have allowed religious adoption agencies to reject gay couples seeking to adopt foster children.

The legislation was approved only after Republican state senators agreed to remove the controversial language.

In a press conference before the legislative session began, Speaker David Ralston said he didn’t want similar “religious liberty” legislation to stymie wider-reaching adoption legislation.

“I will advocate very strongly that not get held up again.” Ralston said.

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this story.