House gives initial approval to adoption bill

The House gave initial approval to House Bill 3859, which would allow adoption and foster agencies to reject potential parents based on religious objections.

AUSTIN - The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday gave their initial approval to House Bill 3859, which would allow adoption and foster agencies to reject potential parents based on religious objections.

The 94-51 vote on Tuesday evening was on the first reading, with two more votes needed before the bill can advance. Supporters say it would give foster care and adoption agencies of religious affiliations the ability to participate in the welfare system while upholding their convictions. Opponents worry this could mean fewer adoption opportunities for LGBT households, as well a non-Christians or single parents.

Supporters believe HB 3859 would keep agencies in the system at a time there is a shortage of foster homes and more agency participation is needed. They add those looking to adopt can simply work with another agency, but those against it believe the bill is state-sponsored discrimination.

“I have a real problem with my taxpayer dollars going to discriminate against other Texans -- especially to provide the services that our state has a responsibility to provide,” said state Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin).

“The purpose is not to exclude or deny services,” said state Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), who also authored the bill, “it is to help as many people as possible to participate in services in a way that respects all points of view.”

Because the measure aims to protect an organizations "sincerely held religious beliefs,” it could allow agencies to enroll a child in a religion-based school, deny referrals for abortion-related contraceptives, drugs or devices and refuse to work with other organizations that don't share their religious beliefs.

The bill also says if an adoption agency refuses to work with a couple, the agency must provide contact information for an agency that will.

A final vote is set for later Wednesday in the House.

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