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Thompson writes: "When the bill goes into effect, those organizations can legally refuse to provide care for children on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity, or on the basis of the sexuality or gender identity of someone in their family, as long as the provider can cite 'religious beliefs.'"

Greg Abbott. (photo: Patrick Michels)
Greg Abbott. (photo: Patrick Michels)

Texas Governor Signs Bill Allowing Providers to Deny LGBTQ Youth Child Welfare Services

By Annabel Thompson, ThinkProgress

18 June 17

Beginning in September, child welfare agencies in Texas can refuse service to LGBTQ children and families.

n Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill that will allow child welfare service providers to decline to provide certain kinds of care based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill, House Bill 3859, will permit discrimination against LGBTQ couples wishing to adopt children, in addition to allowing LGBTQ children to be placed under the agencies’ care in “religious education.” The bill goes into effect in September.

As ThinkProgress noted when the bill passed the Texas House in May, the bill affects not only child placement services (think adoption agencies), but group homes, counseling services, care for abused children, and other resources for children with complicated family situations. The bill will have a broad reach, affecting organizations that provide a wide variety care options for a large number of children.

When the bill goes into effect, those organizations can legally refuse to provide care for children on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity, or on the basis of the sexuality or gender identity of someone in their family, as long as the provider can cite “religious beliefs.” They will be able to do the same for same-gender couples wishing to adopt children, and ultimately for anyone whose situation can somehow be considered in violation of their religious beliefs.

Texas state Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D) pointed out that it could be used to justify, for example, a Christian organization refusing to provide services to a Jewish family. All an organization that denies service to someone must provide is a link to “the web page on the department’s Internet website that includes a list of other licensed child welfare services providers” and a referral to another organization. The bill makes no mention of what a child already receiving care can do if they want that care to change.

Prioritizing the religious beliefs of organizations who care for children over the religious beliefs, and human rights, of children, the bill will allow child welfare services to place LGBTQ children under their care into “religious education” that demonizes them or undermines their self-worth. A 2014 GLSEN survey found that over half of all LGBTQ children feel unsafe in schools in general, with 74 percent of students reporting verbal harassment; placing these students into homophobic conservative religious education can only add to that fear and unease.

The Human Rights Campaign noted that studies have shown LGBTQ children are more likely than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to end up in the care of child welfare organizations, often as a result of being disowned by their families after coming out, or being outed against their will. Experts say that allowing child welfare organizations to force these children into programs that further reject their identities, or even to reject them altogether, can be incredibly detrimental to their mental health and well-being.

But religious minorities will also be impacted by the bill, which allows child welfare organizations to place children who are members of religious minorities (Jewish or Muslim children, for example) into Christian schools. Forcing a child whose faith ties them to their family and their culture to go through religious education for a religion that is not theirs is detrimental to the right to freedom of religion, and can have long-term consequences for the child. HB 3859 allows service providers to alienate children from their beliefs and their heritage in the name of religious freedom.

An also overlooked but potentially dangerous part of the legislation allows providers to “decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for abortions, contraceptives, or drugs, devices, or services that are potentially abortion-inducing.” Teenagers living in group homes who need birth control to help with period pain could be refused it. Teenagers in the same situation who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies could also be at risk. The bill will seriously impact teenage girls with living situations that are already difficult.

The only thing providers can be penalized for, under HB 3859, is declining to provide someone welfare services on the basis of race. No mention is made of discrimination on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Child welfare service providers could legally refuse to provide services to families with an LGBTQ member, or families who practice Islam or Judaism, if they can claim “sincerely held religious beliefs” prevent them from doing so.

The bill was condemned immediately after passage by the HRC and by GLAAD, whose president put out the following statement on Thursday:

Lawmakers used religion as a weapon to pass a bill that not only harms qualified candidates who want to start families, but children. This law was never about the best interests of Texans or of children, but about forwarding a political agenda to codify the permission to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans into state law. Discrimination has won in Texas, and it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a deserving family simply because they are LGBTQ.

HB 3859 is only the latest in a series of harmful bills pushed by Texas legislators this year; others include SB 4, which cracks down on undocumented immigrants, and SB 522, which would have allowed county clerks to opt out of issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples. The state, alongside other efforts happening nationwide with varying degrees of success, also has its own transphobic “bathroom bill” effort under way. your social media marketing partner


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+8 # Moxa 2017-06-18 09:56
How garbled and unrecognizable have Jesus's loving words become! Jesus blessed all and rejected no one. I guess he wasn't all that religious by today's standards.
+11 # chrisconnolly 2017-06-18 10:16
How much more hateful can americans be? How much more anti constitution can they be? Oh that's right, these states are promoting a call for a constitutional convention. That means they want to rewrite the constitution in the image of themselves and they nearly have the votes to do just that. We could be turned into religious holier than thou, slave owning, viciously armed dictatorship governed by corporate greed head whims who poison us in our expensive drinking water when we resist.
+4 # jsluka 2017-06-18 15:39
They aren't "Americans" they are Texans, and Texans are proudly and infamously cruel.
+8 # Citizen Mike 2017-06-18 10:33
Why insert a religious qualification at all? Is it not sufficient to simply authorize hatred as a political principle? Let anyone avowing a sincere hatred of any class of people be allowed to deny them a service or benefit. This could be used to restore segregation, which is what Republicanism is leaning towards anyway.
+8 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2017-06-18 12:22
I am stunned that ANY American government could pass a piece of legislation such as Texas bill HB 3859. It is not just that the bill clearly violates the US Constitution’s 1st Amendment religious restrictions and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. What is beyond my comprehension is that self-proclaimed Christians, elected to promote the general welfare of the People, could support a law that places the personal religious beliefs of SOME citizens over the actual well-being of other citizens, PARTICULARLY CHILDREN. How could ANY person who claims to believe that Jesus is the Son of God do this?

To those Christians who think the religious beliefs of a few should be enshrined in law, I direct you to the New Testament writings of Matthew 22:17-21 [1], Mark 12:14-17 [2] and Luke 20:22-25 [3]. All three of these disciples were so impressed with how Jesus handled this problem that they wrote of His response to the Pharisees who wished to bring Him down. When asked if it were lawful to give tribute to Caesar, He knew the Pharisees meant lawful under Jewish religious law. He could have just said, “Yes. It is lawful to pay taxes” but He did not because He wanted to make the point that ALL of Caesar’s just laws were to be obeyed. He knew there were all manner of religions represented in Caesar’s empire, not just Jews, just as there are all manner of religions represented in the US. Are we in the US less deserving than Caesar of the respect counseled by the Son of God?
+4 # krallison 2017-06-18 17:01
Texas needs to be forcibly 'seceded' from the U.S.. It is no longer even remotely a democracy. Maybe we need to reinstitute the Mason-Dixon line.
+4 # angelfish 2017-06-18 18:09
Just another BLATANT example of "man's inhumanity to man", necessitating the shortest sentence in the Bible, which is, "Jesus wept".
+4 # Femihumanist 2017-06-18 18:53
My religion rejects people who hate. I will not serve any racist, sexist, ethnicist, classisist, or homophobic. My religious beliefs preclude my treating any of them like real human beings.

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