Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that he'll sign into law a measure that would assure continued taxpayer funding of faith-based foster care and adoption agencies even if they exclude LGBT families and others based on religious beliefs.
The GOP-controlled Senate gave the bill final passage on the first day of the 2020 legislative session after it was initially approved by the House last April. The bill was sent to the Republican governor amid warnings by critics of possible negative consequences for Tennessee's reputation.
Lee's communication director, Chris Walker, confirmed in a statement Tuesday evening that the governor would sign the bill. Earlier, before the Senate vote, Lee declined to weigh in after saying he had not read the two-page bill.
"We are off to a fine start this session," state Sen. Steve Dickerson joked while debating against the bill earlier as the lone Republican opposed.
A handful of states to date have enacted similar legislation including Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia, Mississippi and Michigan. But Michigan agreed in settling a lawsuit to no longer turn away LGBT couples or individuals because of religious objections.
Nationally, supporters argue such measures are needed to protect against potential lawsuits hostile to the group's religious beliefs. However, critics counter that the proposals attack LGBT rights and limit the number of qualified families seeking to adopt or foster needy children.
"This bill is solely about freedom," said Sen. Paul Rose, the Republican sponsor of the bill.
Dickerson was the only Republican to join the Senate's five Democrats in opposition. He said the bill would allow certain groups to limit the families where children could be sent, adding "I expect that waiting list to increase somewhat."
Amanda St. Amand • 314-340-8201
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