AUSTIN, Texas — 7:30 p.m.
The Texas House has begun debating a contentious bill that would officially sanction adoption agencies that reject prospective parents based on religious grounds, marital status and sexual preference.
The agencies are private but receive state funding. Many freely admit they already routinely deny non-Christian, gay, and unmarried applicants because they are wary of their beliefs or lifestyle.
The bill by Republican Rep. James Frank of Wichita Falls and several conservative co-sponsors would codify the practice in state law. Agencies say they hope it will shield them from lawsuits.
But the measure has sparked outcry among civil groups, which say it allows the use of state funding to sanction discrimination.
State-funded adoption agencies backing Texas legislation that would sanction the rejection of prospective parents on religious grounds freely admit they already routinely deny non-Christian, gay, and unmarried applicants because they are wary of their beliefs or lifestyle.
The organizations are paid by the state to place foster children with adoptive families. They want to continue the practice and are seeking legal protections through Texas' "Freedom to Serve Children Act," which is up for consideration Tuesday in the GOP-controlled House.
The bill would be the nation's second allowing state-funded adoption agencies to reject families on religious grounds. South Dakota passed similar legislation in March.
Sponsors say it protects religious objections already being raised by adoption agencies. But civil groups say it sanctions discrimination.