Tennessee Senate Pushes Off Debate On Controversial Adoption Bill To 2020 | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Senate Pushes Off Debate On Controversial Adoption Bill To 2020

Apr 30, 2019

The Tennessee Senate has dropped a proposal that would let private adoption agencies reject would-be parents based on their religious beliefs.

Backers of the bill (HB836/SB1304) had said the measure would protect faith-based organizations from lawsuits for following their moral beliefs. But lawmakers have been feeling mounting pressure from companies and advocacy groups that have called the bill "discriminatory."

The measure has been criticized by groups that often weigh in on legislation, such as the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and companies like Amazon, Nissan, Unilever and Warby Parker.

But then, the Tennessee Titans also came out against the measure in the middle of the 2019 NFL Draft. 

"Discriminatory legislation hurts all of us. It also impacts our ability to secure events like the 2019 NFL Draft, major conventions, major athletic contests and other events that benefit our local and state economy. It also weakens our ability to recruit new business and industry to Nashville and to Tennessee," the Titans said in a statement. "We would encourage our elected officials to keep us on a path that protects all our citizens, our growth and our economy."

That was after some religious groups said it could open the door for discrimination against their communities.

Under the measure, privately licensed adoption agencies would have been able to reject an application if the placement would violate their written religious convictions or policies. Many interpreted that as targeting parents in same-sex relationships.

The legislation would have impacted some, but not all adoptions in the state. According to the Department of Children’s Services, about 40 percent of adoptions in Tennessee last year went through outside agencies, many of them faith-based organizations.

Although the House passed the bill earlier this month, the Senate’s decision stops the adoption measure from moving forward, at least for the year.

Another Measure Passes

The Senate did pass another bill (SB1297/HB1151) Tuesday that expands the state’s indecent exposure laws to bathrooms, locker rooms and public showers.

Opponents of the measure have called it a "watered-down bathroom bill" that could be used against transgender people who use the bathroom of their gender identity. But pushback has not been as fierce. The Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBT rights group, has described itself as being "concerned" about the legislation, while also noting language that specifically targeted transgender people had been removed.

Lawmakers have said it clarifies existing state laws on indecent exposure.

That proposal now heads to Gov. Bill Lee.