In a move that has sparked widespread condemnation from LGBTQ rights groups across the nation, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into a law a bill Friday that green-lights discrimination against LGBTQ couples by adoption and foster care agencies.
HB 836 allows agencies to reject LGBTQ couples seeking to foster or adopt on a moral or religious conviction. The bill passed through the House last April and cleared the Senate earlier this month. Lee was expected to sign the measure, despite a fierce advocacy campaign by civil rights organizations denouncing it.
In a statement to the media, HRC president Alphonso David called the new law “disturbing.”
Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year. #HB836, signed by @GovBillLee, shrinks the pool of prospective parents & is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans. #tnleghttps://t.co/IXFoG8RXz4
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) January 24, 2020
“Now, Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year,” he said. “This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans.”
David also called on Tennesseans to vociferously oppose further anti-gay measures in the state.
The HRC head was not alone in expressing concern that HB 836 could be a harbinger of attacks against queer Tennesseans. Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said that the new law sparks fear of more discriminatory bills.
The TN adoption/foster care discrimination bill was signed into law today. Public funds can now be used to support agencies that will turn prospective parents away based on religious or moral reasons.
— TN Equality Project (@tnequality) January 24, 2020
“The Governor and the Legislature must put a stop to this kind of demeaning public policy,” Sanders said in a statement.
Anti-LGBTQ legislation, however, has not always proven to be a win for conservative lawmakers. Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson warned colleagues that the law could tarnish the state’s reputation while spurring costly boycotts from major companies and conventions.
North Carolina passed an anti-trans bathroom law in 2016 that the Associated Press determined would cost the state $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.