Nashville/ Politics & Govt
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Published on April 02, 2024
Tennessee Bill Shielding Foster Parents with Anti-LGBTQ Views Passes, Provoking Backlash and Calls for VetoSource: Jice99, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a contentious move by Tennessee legislators, a bill designed to protect foster parents with anti-LGBTQ beliefs for "religious or moral" reasons has passed, sparking criticism from advocacy groups and opposition party members. As reported by The Tennessean, the bill, SB1738/HB2169, will prevent the state Department of Children's Services from excluding potential adoptive or foster parents based on these beliefs. Proponents argue that it is a necessary step to increase the number of available foster homes.

However, the bill has faced stark criticism for the potential harm it may inflict upon LGBTQ youth in foster care. The Tennessee Equality Project is one such voice, urging Governor Bill Lee to swiftly veto the bill that they say "focuses on the wishes of a few adults." "We call on Governor Lee to veto SB1738/HB2169, which puts more LGBTQ children and youth in danger of being placed in homes that are not accepting of their identities. Bad placements lead to running away, self-harm, and increased depression and anxiety," the group stated in a plea obtained by FOX 17. Critics argue the bill could force children into unsupportive environments, exacerbating mental health issues among an already vulnerable population.

In an apparent contradiction, the Tennessee House Republicans struck down a separate bill that aimed to establish paid parental leave for state employees who become foster parents. Opponents within the legislature suggested people might to unfairly manipulate the proposed program for additional vacation time.

Democrat lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates have expressed concerns that the bill could legally sanction placements of gay or trans foster children into "hostile" environments. "This legislation will protect prospective foster families from being blocked from fostering children altogether if they decline to care for a gay or trans foster child," GOP sponsors told Knox News. However, this sentiment is not shared by those who fear that the bill prioritizes the rights of the foster parents over the well-being and safety of the children in their care.

The bill, having cleared both the House and Senate, now heads to Governor Bill Lee's desk, where its enactment into law remains uncertain among widespread calls for a veto.