Texas governor Greg Abbott has happily passed legislation which allows religious bigotry against LGBTQ people, adults and children, and religious minorities as well. This bill is one of those “sincerely held religious beliefs” pieces of garbage, where the ugliest and most vile of personal feelings and religious sentiments are allowed to ruin lives at will. This bill allows for LGBTQ children to be under agencies care in “religious education.” I’m familiar with “religious education”, and for children who are already terribly fragile and imperiled, well. A lot of them won’t make it. I barely did, and to say that shit leaves a mark is an understatement of a century.
On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill that will allow child welfare service providers to decline to provide certain kinds of care based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill, House Bill 3859, will permit discrimination against LGBTQ couples wishing to adopt children, in addition to allowing LGBTQ children to be placed under the agencies’ care in “religious education.” The bill goes into effect in September.
As ThinkProgress noted when the bill passed the Texas House in May, the bill affects not only child placement services (think adoption agencies), but group homes, counseling services, care for abused children, and other resources for children with complicated family situations. The bill will have a broad reach, affecting organizations that provide a wide variety care options for a large number of children.
When the bill goes into effect, those organizations can legally refuse to provide care for children on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity, or on the basis of the sexuality or gender identity of someone in their family, as long as the provider can cite “religious beliefs.” They will be able to do the same for same-gender couples wishing to adopt children, and ultimately for anyone whose situation can somehow be considered in violation of their religious beliefs.
Prioritizing the religious beliefs of organizations who care for children over the religious beliefs, and human rights, of children, the bill will allow child welfare services to place LGBTQ children under their care into “religious education” that demonizes them or undermines their self-worth. A 2014 GLSEN survey found that over half of all LGBTQ children feel unsafe in schools in general, with 74 percent of students reporting verbal harassment; placing these students into homophobic conservative religious education can only add to that fear and unease.
The Human Rights Campaign noted that studies have shown LGBTQ children are more likely than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to end up in the care of child welfare organizations, often as a result of being disowned by their families after coming out, or being outed against their will. Experts say that allowing child welfare organizations to force these children into programs that further reject their identities, or even to reject them altogether, can be incredibly detrimental to their mental health and well-being.
The potential for harm goes much farther than this, unfortunately. Think Progress has the full story.