A House Committee voted Wednesday for a bill that would allow private adoption agencies to turn away gay couples on religious grounds.
The House State Government Committee approved the bill, which now moves to the House floor.
The bill would not allow groups to be forced to participate in adoptions and foster care placements that violate their religious beliefs. It would prohibit the state from refusing to license, or contract with, agencies and children’s homes that refuse the services on religious grounds.
Supporters said it is needed to protect faith-affiliated adoption agencies such as children’s homes linked with the Baptist and Catholic churches.
“This would protect them so they would not be required to place children in homes when it violates their religious convictions,” said Joe Godfrey, executive director of the interdenominational Alabama Citizens Action Program and a supporter of the bill.
Godfrey said a Catholic adoption agency in another state had to close rather than participate in a state requirement to let gay couples adopt.
The bill called the “Alabama Child Care Provider Inclusion Act” is one of several religious freedom bills being taken up across the country as state gay marriage bans have fallen to federal court rulings. Similar adoption bills were debated in Michigan and Florida.
The bill does not specifically mention homosexuality, but proponents said it is in anticipation of legalized same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments next week on whether gays and lesbians have a right to marry nationwide.
Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said the bill would legalize adoption discrimination — against a broad range of people — in the name of religion.
“It’s like saying, ‘I don’t want to serve somebody black because I don’t like the way they look.’ It’s the same thing with this bill,” Rep. John Rogers, a Birmingham Democrat, said.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.