The Texas House of Representatives Wednesday passed HB 3859, a discriminatory bill that would allow child placement agencies in the state foster care system – including agencies receiving state and federal funding – to prioritize their religious beliefs above the needs of children in its care. The bill would prevent the state from sanctioning or revoking the licenses of child-placement agencies that discriminate against LGBT youth and families, including foster and adoptive parents. The bill now goes to the Texas State Senate.
Currey Cook, Counsel and Director, Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, Lambda Legal, said of the news, “All children and families served by the Texas child welfare system deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity. HB 3859 does exactly the opposite. HB 3859 gives special permission to religiously-affiliated government-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate even above the best interests of the child.”
Cook added, “HB 3859 is a wholesale rejection of LGBT people as foster and adoptive parents and it says to LGBTQ kids in the child welfare system; ‘there is something wrong with you’. Children in state care deserve our best efforts to protect and prioritize them – including LGBTQ kids and kids from diverse religious backgrounds. Those agencies that won’t commit to putting children’s needs first, and to nondiscrimination as a core promise to all children, must not be allowed to operate as agents of the government. There is no right to be a government contractor—agencies must adhere to standards of care set by licensing boards and professional governing bodies in order to provide services.”
The bill touts “solving” child placement issues, but Cook disagreed.
“In addition, this discriminatory bill purports to ‘solve’ this issue of those children and prospective parents denied placement and participation for so-called religious reasons through the creation of a separate foster care system,” she said. “Relegating LGBTQ kids and prospective parents, as well as kids and parents of different faiths, to a second-class system serves only to exacerbate the stigma of HB 3859 and cost Texas taxpayers money by creating an unnecessary and duplicative system. States are legally obligated to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children in their care. Every action they take should promote these objectives and be in a child’s best interests. A system that privileges religious belief above that essential obligation is cruel, harmful, discriminatory and explicitly counter to professional standards. The Texas Senate needs to reject this dangerous bill.”
In addition to HB 3859, the Texas State Senate advanced SB 2095, legislation which would make it difficult – if not impossible – for transgender youth to participate in scholastic sports. The Texas House, meanwhile, advanced HB 3859 – sweeping legislation which would allow adoption agencies and foster parents to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBT individuals, religious minorities, single parents, and others.
“It’s discouraging that Texas lawmakers appear so fixated on singling out LGBT people – particularly transgender youth – for discrimination,” said Kasey Suffredini, Freedom for All Americans’ Acting CEO & President of Strategy. “We’re facing a stunningly sweeping anti-LGBT agenda in the Texas legislature this year, and these bills have significant consequences for LGBT people. So many voices from across Texas have stood up and rejected this discriminatory agenda – including businesses big and small, conservatives, and people of faith. It’s time for Texas lawmakers to end their obsession with going after the dignity and equality of LGBT people.”
Lambda Legal asks any youth or adults who have experienced discrimination in Texas’s child welfare system to call their Help Desk at (212) 809-8585 or complete this online form lambdalegal.org/help/form.
Read more about Lambda Legal’s work with children in out-of-home care here.