Tennessee lawmakers file bills that would allow adoption agencies to refuse service to LGBT couples

Tennessee lawmakers this week introduced a set of bills that would allow adoption agencies to deny services to LGBT couples on religious grounds.

One bill, filed by state Sen. Joey Hensley (R) and Rep. John Ragan, would allow the state's adoption agencies to deny services to couples if those services conflict with the agency's "sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The bill would also prohibit state or local government from taking “adverse action” against an adoption agency if it were to deny services based on religious grounds.

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Another bill introduced by Tennessee state Rep. Tim Rudd (R) on Wednesday would similarly prohibit an adoption agency in the state from being “required to perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions.”

Hensley told the Knoxville News Sentinel in an interview Thursday that he introduced the legislation out of concern that adoption agencies would be made to assist with adoption "when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles.”

Hensley also cited a past case in New York in which Catholic Charities decided to discontinue its adoption program because the state prohibited agencies from refusing to work with LGBT couples.

He added that he was unaware of any similar cases in Tennessee in which adoption agencies may have felt pressured to shut down over similar issues.

Kansas and Oklahoma state lawmakers both passed legislation last year allowing private adoption agencies to veto the placement of children into homes with LGBT parents.