REPUBLICAN Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is facing heavy criticism for a bill he signed Friday allowing state-funded adoption agencies to deny services to LGBTQ couples for religious reasons.
Opponents argue that the bill, which goes into effect immediately, targets members of the LGBTQ and is harmful to the state’s many children who need a home.
“Turning away good families simply because they don’t satisfy an agency’s religious preferences would deny thousands of Tennessee children access to the families they urgently want and need,” the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a petition against the bill, according to CNN.
And the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrera, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, told the Tennessean the organization plans to “turn to the courts for recourse.”
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 5,000 people had signed a separate online petition calling for the legislation to be repealed.
State Sen. Steve Dickerson, the only Republican to vote against the bill, said the law will be financially detrimental to the state because companies could refuse to do business in Tennessee because of the measure, according to CNN.
But those who support the bill say it protects adoption agencies’ right to practice their moral and religious beliefs.
“The governor believes that protection of rights is important, especially religious liberty,” Lee spokesman Gillum Ferguson said, according to the Tennessean. “This bill is centered around protecting the religious liberty of Tennesseans and that’s why he signed it.”
Tennessee is one of 11 states that allow child welfare agencies to refuse services to the LGBTQ community if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Two of the states (Alabama and Michigan) only allow this discrimination if the agency doesn’t receive government funding.