Georgia lawmaker introduces LGBTQ adoption, foster care ban

Sen. Marty Harbin filed a bill on Wednesday that would allow adoption and foster care agencies in Georgia to refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples. 

Senate Bill 368 would allow the denial of service, “when the proposed placement would violate the child-placing agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies,” according to the bill. 

People should be “very concerned” about the introduction of the bill, according to Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.

“I certainly could not be more disappointed that Sen. Marty Harbin is choosing to put a political agenda over the welfare of some of the most vulnerable children that we have here in Georgia – that’s the estimated 12,000 kids that we have in the foster care system,” he told Project Q Atlanta.

“The language of this bill will do nothing to protect people’s rights to practice their religion as they see fit. What it will do is narrow the pool of adoptive and foster care parents,” he added.

SB 368 would also protect adoption and foster care agencies that refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples by ensuring they would not lose their licenses, grant funding and contracts in government programs or face lawsuits over the denials.

Harbin (photo), a Republican from Tyrone, said the bill “protects” faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.

“This legislation will protect the freedom of choice for the mother in placing her child with an agency that is line with her culture and her values,” he said in a press release. “It will also protect the freedom of expression of the agency. And most importantly, it will help ensure that as many children as possible find a safe and loving home.”

Harbin told the AJC that Senate leadership supports his bill. In January, House Speaker David Ralston slammed such anti-LGBTQ efforts as “a solution in search of a problem” and called them “offensive."

As lawmakers looked to revise the state's adoption laws in 2017, an anti-LGBTQ amendment to a reform bill would have allowed faith-based agencies receiving public funds to refuse to serve LGBTQ parents. The amendment killed the bill.

Gov. Brian Kemp told the AJC in January that he would address any anti-LGBTQ provisions to adoption reform legislation “when the time comes.” He introduced a plan to overhaul the state adoption and foster care system during his State of the State address in January, but sidestepped the issue of anti-LGBTQ provisions.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson, one of the five openly LGBTQ members of the legislature, said he plans to fight SB 368.

Georgia Equality urged its followers to contact state senators about the bill. 

Harbin filed an anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bill in 2019 that stalled in a Senate committee. It is back for consideration in this year’s session, which began in January.