Rachel Garza and her husband Oscar Garza are foster parents to two boys, including one new-born. On May 8, 2017, Rachel Garza had a visit with her case manager, Grace Kelsoe, from Helping Hand Home for Children. (RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Religious refusal of gay foster parents now allowed under Texas law

A bill that would allow faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to decline to place children with gay, lesbian and transgender households has become law.

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Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 3859 on Thursday.

During the legislative session, lawmakers who supported the bill said that it would protect the free practice of religion while keeping essential faith-based organizations in the child welfare system, which is plagued by a shortage of homes for children who have been abused or neglected. Religious agencies make up about a quarter of the child-placement agencies in the state, lawmakers had said.

Opponents said, however, that the law paves the way for state-sanctioned discrimination under the guise of religion, favoring conservative Christian beliefs — and potential objections to non-Christian, single or LGBT Texans — over the welfare of children.

“With his signature today, Gov. Abbott has joined the lieutenant governor and other lawmakers in taking Texas down a dark and cruel road,” said Kathy Miller with the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network. “This law’s clear intent is to allow service providers that receive state tax dollars to misuse religion as a license to discriminate against LGBT families and children in the state’s child-welfare system.”

The bill passed the legislature largely along party lines.

Democrats had said that they feared that under the bill, children wouldn’t have access to certain medical care including vaccinations, contraception and abortions if such practices violated the foster parents’ religious beliefs.

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