Tennessee Republican lawmakers file bills giving adoption agencies right to refuse services to gay couples

Tennessee lawmakers have filed multiple bills this week which would allow adoption agencies to deny services to gay couples.

In one bill, proposed on Thursday by Republicans Joey Hensley and John Ragan, agencies would not be forced to go against their "sincerely held religious beliefs," USA Today reported.

"We were concerned that adoption agencies, such as religious adoption agencies, would be required to allow adoption when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles," Hensley told USA Today. "That they would be forced to allow adoptions to people they felt were not appropriate parents, so we didn't want those agencies to not be able to provide adoptions."

Same-sex couples would still have the option to adopt children through secular agencies.

"I don't think a gay couple is the best environment for children," Hensley said. "Certainly, legally, they can adopt children and they can have children, but I think every child needs a mother and a father. The best environment is a mother and a father."

Similar legislation filed Wednesday by Republican Tim Rudd would prevent lawsuits against adoption agencies who refuse service.
"There's a lot of other adoption agencies that are not religious-based," Hensley said. "There's certainly other options for people who want to adopt."
Catholic Charities in New York recently decided to discontinue its foster care and adoption services based on state laws which prevent adoption agencies from turning down gay couples, Hensley noted.

What do opposers say?

Tennessee Equality Project's Executive Director Chris Sanders argued that the legislation was motivated by a "desire to discriminate" against gay couples.
"If there were some issue, all the people who are involved in same-sex relationships who are parents through other means, not adoption, would not be fit, but the studies don't show that," Sanders told the newspaper.
But the bill would also apply to single parent adoptions and unmarried couple adoptions, Hensley explained.

What else?

Lawmakers passed similar measures in Kansas and Oklahoma last year, according to the report. 
"We're very concerned about the possible movement of this bill," Sanders said.
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