A controversial adoption bill is moving forward in the Tennessee legislature.
While supporters argue it protects religious-based adoption agencies, a leader of one local non-profit believes it discriminates against the LGBT community.
Located in Leiper’s Fork, the Gratidude Ranch serves as a bed and breakfast, event venue, and home of the nonprofit “S.A.F.E.”.
S.A.F.E. serves both foster kids and foster families alike, run by Jason Warner.
“This is a unique and safe and fun place for foster kids to come, and learn about the benefits available to them,” noted Demarco Deciccio, Jason’s partner.
“You have 800 kids right now in Tennessee that are in the [foster] system, where parental rights have been terminated, that are looking for adoptive homes,” added Jason.
They both believe adoptive homes may soon be limited in Tennessee because of a bill passing through the Tennessee State House this week.
The bill ensures faith-based adoption agencies can refuse to place children with potential families, based on that agency’s written religious or moral convictions.
“I don’t think we’re necessarily excluding certain groups,” noted Sen. Mark Pody of Lebanon. “Those groups have options to go anywhere that they would like.”
Sen. Pody is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.
Supporters believe if religious-based institutions are protected, more kids could be adopted.
“These adoption agencies are faith-based,” said Sen. Pody. “They want to stand up for their religious values.”
Warner and Deciccio fear those values could target the LGBT community.
They are especially wary, given that these agencies would be able to receive state grants.
“We know how many amazing same-sex couples there are that have adopted these kids,” Warner said. “If these agencies are state-funded, then do they have the right to not place these children in state custody with anyone that’s willing and able?”
Similar bills have passed in other states, including most recently in Kansas and Oklahoma.