A new law in Alabama has opened the door for discrimination against same-sex couples interested in adoption. Under House Bill 24, also known as the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, private foster care and adoption agencies can use faith-based policies to deny gay couples the chance to foster or adopt children. While the new law gives religious or faith-based child placing agencies license to openly discriminate against same-sex couples, it does not apply to foster care and adoption agencies that receive either state or federal funding.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed the bill into law earlier in the week, defended House Bill 24 as a step toward "protecting religious liberty" in the state of Alabama. "This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home," Ivey said, according to Alabama Local.
The law specifically prohibits the state from "discriminating against child placing agencies on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child placement that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider." That means the state cannot force private faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, nor can it revoke the license of an agency that denies applications from same-sex couples on the basis of their sexuality.
Rep. Rich Wingo says adoption bill is not about discrimination. pic.twitter.com/JUUanthStZ— Tim Lockette (@TLockette_Star) April 26, 2017
While State Rep. Rich Wingo, the Republican legislator behind the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, told Alabama Local the law is not an attempt to discriminate against gay couples, but rather a move to protect faith-based agencies from discrimination, opponents of the law have argued otherwise. Democratic State Sen. Rodger Smitherman slammed the law as "sanctioned discrimination," while Democratic Rep. Patricia Todd has called it "bigotry in the first degree," The Atlantic reported.
The Human Rights Campaign has also cautioned the law could stand to impact more than just same-sex couples, including atheists, divorcees, single parents, or unmarried couples.
But Alabama isn't the only state where same-sex couples looking to adopt appear to be facing increasing discrimination. Gov. Ivey signed the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act into law roughly a week after a Kentucky judge recused himself from hearing adoption cases involving gay couples or adults due to his belief that being adopted by a gay person would never be in the "best interest" of a child.
Citing judicial ethics rules requiring judges to disqualify themselves from hearing cases they feel they may have a personal bias in, Judge Mitchell Nance issued an order April 27 recusing himself from all adoption cases that involve gay adults. In his order, Nance said "as a matter of conscience," he felt that "under no circumstances" would "the best interest of the child be promoted by the adoption by a practicing homosexual," The Courier-Journal reported.