Georgia House approves adoption bill without LGBT ban

The Georgia House – frustrated with Republican senators who hijacked a popular adoption bill with an anti-LGBT amendment – passed another version of the legislation on Tuesday.

The House took Senate Bill 130, a minor bill related to adoption laws already passed by the Senate, and amended it to include the language from Rep. Bert Reeves' House Bill 159 that would update the state's adoption laws for the first time in years. The amended bill passed the House 159-0 late Tuesday.

“At the end of the day we do have a few things we have to do, and one of the things we thought was important was passing the adoption bill,” Speaker David Ralston said after the marathon legislative day on Tuesday.

“And we were concerned about that bill for a little over a week. And with the action that the Senate took, I thought that was regrettable. We asked them to correct their mistakes and they didn’t and so we’ve fixed it for them and hopefully they will agree to it,” he added.

Ralston (photo) was referencing a full court press from himself, Gov. Nathan Deal, Rules Committee Chair Sen. Jeff Mullis, LGBT advocates and others for the Senate Judiciary Committee to strip out the anti-LGBT amendment from Sen. William Ligon that hijacked Reeves' bill in mid March. Last week, the committee held a second hearing on the legislation and failed to remove Ligon's amendment despite a plea from Reeves.

On Tuesday ahead of the vote, Reeves urged lawmakers to support the bill "without this controversial language added.”

“From day one, this was something that, to me, we were all going to do together. And I wasn’t going to take this on any other way because this is not a partisan issue. We worked very hard to offer great improvements to our process, simultaneously avoid controversy,” Reeves said.

The bill represented the first major rewrite of state adoption laws since 1990. Adding the anti-LGBT amendment – which would allow private agencies that receive public funds to ban adoptions by LGBT people – broke a years-long truce to avoid putting children's issues in the crosshairs of the anti-LGBT agenda of religious conservatives.

“This is a bill that can change lives, this is a bill that can make families. So let’s get this across the Senate, and give them another chance to get this right,” Reeves said about his adoption bill.

The House approval of Senate Bill 130 pushes it back to the Senate, which has to agree or disagree with the amended legislation. The last day of the legislative session is Thursday. Early in the day, the Senate had not taken any action on the bill.