Delivering a blow to separation of church and state, Gov. Kay Ivey signed House Bill 24, the ironically named “Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act,” into law yesterday. The move was criticized by those who say it legalizes discrimination, including the Human Rights Campaign.
“We are deeply disappointed that the legislature and the governor took on this unnecessary, discriminatory bill instead of focusing on how to improve the lives of all Alabamians, no matter who they are or whom they love,” said Eva Kendrick, HRC Alabama state director. “The intent of this law is clear: to discriminate, causing the most harm to children in Alabama’s child welfare system. It’s time our lawmakers — from the legislature to the Governor’s Mansion — stop using LGBTQ people as pawns to win cheap political points.”
To me, the most interesting part about all this is in the phrasing of the bill itself. The legislation, sponsored by GOP Rep. Rich Wingo, claims it will “prohibit the state from discriminating” against adoption agencies that choose to reject potential foster or adoptive parents based on religious disagreements. That’s right: the bill created to deny parenting rights to certain groups says it will help prevent discrimination.
This bill would prohibit the state from discriminating against child placing agencies on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child placement that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider.
One positive thing about this bill is that, prior to its enactment, an amendment was added that limits the exemption to adoption agencies that do not receive state or federal funding. This would eliminate the church/state separation issue for me, except for the fact that these agencies refusing services to same-sex couples are still licensed by the government.
Upon signing the bill, Gov. Ivey reportedly said the elected legislature of Alabama “overwhelmingly approved” it. She’s not wrong. Just last week, the State House approved the final version of the bill on an 87-0 vote (with 6 abstentions and 12 absences). It wasn’t close.
This legislation is just one of a slew of new bills being introduced and passed around the country in the name of “religious liberty.” Anyone who reads these measures, however, can tell they are thinly veiled attempts to justify discrimination, often against same-sex couples, but in this case, anyone with whom an agency disagrees for religious reasons.
This trend is continuing, so stay tuned in your state and be ready to make calls against “religious freedom” laws that threaten the civil liberties of others.
(Image via Shutterstock)