Alabama legalises discrimination against same-sex couples looking to adopt

Emily Shugerman
A new Alabama law allows private adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents (stock image): Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Private adoption agencies in Alabama are now legally permitted to discriminate against same-sex parents.

A new law signed by Governor Kay Ivey allows private adoption agencies to refuse to place children in homes with LGBTQ parents. Advocates say the law protects the religious liberty of faith-based agencies.

"I ultimately signed House Bill 24 because it ensures hundreds of children can continue to find 'forever homes' through religiously-affiliated adoption agencies," Ms Ivey said. “This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home.”

Detractors, however, say the bill permits blatant discrimination from private agencies. Both same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting are legal in all 50 states. A review of 75 research studies by the Columbia Law School Public Policy Research Portal found an “overwhelming scholarly consensus” that same-sex parenting “does not harm children."

"This bill obviously came about because same-sex marriage was approved," said Patricia Todd, an openly gay state representative. "It's based in a stereotype. And it's wrong.”

The Alabama law does not protect state or federally-funded agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ families.

The bill's sponsor, Representative Rich Wingo, argued the law is necessary to keep faith-based agencies’ doors open. Mr Wingo told reporters about 30 per cent of the placement agencies in the state are faith-based.

"If 30 per cent (of Alabama's foster and adoption agencies) were to close their doors, that would create a burden on the state that impacts the children," Mr Wingo said.

South Dakota, Michigan, North Dakota, and Virginia have all passed similar laws.

The debate echoes themes from the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, in which a private, religious business argued that it should not be forced to pay for their employees’ contraceptive coverage. The Supreme Court decided in the business’s favor, in a ruling that was widely viewed as a victory for religious liberty.

A judge in nearby Kentucky recently recused himself from all adoption cases involving same-sex couples, on the basis of his "conscientious objection to the adoption of a child by a practising homosexual."

The judge said his beliefs would prevent him from ruling fairly in court. He informed the lawyers in the area that they would have to request a special judge for adoption cases involving gay people.