Respect Diversity + Inclusion

One state expands LGBTQ+ adoption rights while one state restricts them

A gay couple sits with their child at a table.
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Story at a glance

  • More states are beginning to draft legislation surrounding the abortion rights of LGBTQ+ identifying couples.
  • States like New Jersey have implemented policies to make the process more seamless for gay couples to adopt children..
  • Conversely, the state of Tennessee has made headlines over the last few weeks for pushing through legislation that favors religious freedom over the rights of gay people.

On Jan. 15, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed new legislation that will expand adoption access for LGBTQ+ parents in the Garden State. The legislation, which covers married or civil union gay and lesbian couples who have already used donor eggs to achieve pregnancy, will ensure that prospective LGBTQ+ parents will no longer be subject to a lengthy and expensive adoption process. 

“It’s critical that New Jersey promotes strong family structures with LGBTQ-inclusive policies, and with Gov. Murphy’s signature on this landmark legislation, parents can fully focus on building, protecting, and providing for their families,” said Alisha De Lorenzo, Interim Deputy Director of Garden State Equality to the Hudson Reporter. “This law will truly change the lives of our families for the better.”

A stark contrast

In another part of the country, Tennessee lawmakers kicked off the first day of their 2020 legislative session last Tuesday by approving a proposal for an anti-gay adoption bill. The legislation would assure continued taxpayer funding of faith-based foster care and adoption agencies regardless of whether they exclude LGBTQ+ families and others based on religious beliefs.

Tennessee joins a list of seven other states that have already enacted similar legislation, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, Virginia and Michigan.

Sen. Paul Rose, the Republican sponsor of the bill, said that it is “solely about freedom,” and that he didn’t think the bill is technically necessary as the Trump Administration is currently proposing a rule that would essentially impose those same religious protections. Rose decided to move forward with the bill as there is no guarantee of a Trump re-election.

The controversial adoption bill now sits, awaiting Gov. Bill Lee’s signature to become law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) sent a letter to the governor this week, urging him not to sign. In the letter, ACLU-TN Executive Director Hedy Weinberg wrote that “while the legislation purports to advance religious liberty, it does just the opposite.” Lee has already publicly stated that he plans to sign. 

Others who have spoken out against Lee signing the bill include Mike Curb, who served as co-chair of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign and who has been outspoken in support of LGBTQ+ rights in Tennessee, as well as Nashville council members who approved legislation Tuesday night that calls on Lee to veto the bill. They believe that passing it would send a message to residents and businesses that Tennessee is not a welcoming state. 

“This would have a tremendous negative impact on the finances of Nashville and the state,” said council member Nancy VanReece.