Georgia lawmaker introduces LGBT adoption, foster care ban

Sen. William Ligon introduced a bill that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to ban LGBT people, making good on his promise to push the legislation after it became embroiled in controversy last year.

Ligon said in January that the ban was coming, promising to introduce it as a standalone bill after it was stripped out of legislation reforming the state's adoption and foster care laws. On Wednesday, he filed the new bill.

Senate Bill 375 would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBT people or others based on their religious beliefs. The bill would also protect those agencies from losing state funding if they refuse service to anyone.

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Article 1 of Chapter 5 of Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to children and youth services, so as to allow a child-placing agency to decline to accept a referral from the department and decline to perform services not referred under a contract with the department based on the child-placing agency's sincerely held religious beliefs; to prevent the department from discriminating against or causing any adverse action against a child-placing agency based on its sincerely held religious beliefs; to provide for assertion of such rights; to provide for definitions; to provide for a short title; to provide for legislative findings; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Ligon said the legislation would protect faith-based agencies. Via the AJC:

“Our faith-based agencies have provided a valuable and very important service in that regard for many years,” Ligon said. “What we’ve seen across the nation is that states have failed these agencies by forcing them to make a choice between violating their faith, which motivates them to do this service, or going out of business.”

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Jesse Stone, Steve Gooch, David Shafer, Greg Kirk and Jeff Mullis. Kirk helped push a sweeping anti-LGBT "religious freedom" bill in 2016 that earned a veto from Gov. Nathan Deal. Shafer, who is running lieutenant governor, has helped push anti-LGBT legislation as the Senate's No. 2 official.

Last year, Mullis – chair of the powerful Rules Committee that decides which bills make it to the Senate floor for a vote – called Ligon's adoption ban "a little extreme."

Ligon and the Senate Judiciary Committee attached the ban to a rewrite of the state's adoption and foster care laws. That prompted an outcry from GOP leaders, adoption advocates and LGBT activists. The amendment tanked the bill.

In January, Ligon's amendment was stripped from the legislation, paving the way for its passage in the Senate by a 40-13 vote on Jan. 18.

Ligon, Stone – chair of the Judiciary Committee – and Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert said then that the adoption ban would quickly resurface.