Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law HB 3859 a discriminatory bill that allows child welfare organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, to turn away qualified Texans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. It will also allow taxpayer-funded agencies to refuse to provide services to children in care if the agency has a religious objection to that service; among other things, HB 3859 will forbid the state from canceling a state contract with an agency that subjected children in their care to dangerous practices such as so-called “conversion therapy.”
HB 3859 is one of more than thirty unconscionable anti-LGBTQ bills that were pursued this regular session by extreme Texas lawmakers, who have been undertaking a systematic effort to roll back the rights of LGBTQ Texans, piece by piece. Now, Gov. Abbott has asked lawmakers to pass anti-LGBTQ legislation during a special session beginning July 18.
HB 3859 enshrines discrimination into Texas law by allowing discrimination in two directions: against prospective parents, and against children in their care. State contractors who provide child welfare services with taxpayer dollars can discriminate against otherwise qualified prospective parents seeking to care for a child in need on the basis of religious belief — including LGBTQ couples and individuals, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.
Unfortunately, this law will have a significant and tremendously harmful impact on children in care. HB 3859 allows the agencies tasked by the state with caring for these children to put discrimination over the best interests of the child – they are allowed to refuse to provide services that children in care may desperately need, or subject children to care that is contrary to a child’s best interest. For example, this will allow an agency responsible for caring for LGBTQ youth to refer that child to a provider of the abusive, discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” if that was consistent with the agency’s religious beliefs, without the state being able to intervene, cancel the contract, or withdraw support in other ways.