Alabama, Ten­nessee gov­er­nors sign anti-LGBT bills

GA Voice - - Nationalnews -

Gov­er­nors in Alabama and Ten­nessee have signed into law a pair of mea­sures that could al­low dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT fam­i­lies seek­ing to adopt a child, or jeop­ar­dize their abil­ity to ob­tain state ben­e­fits.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law House Bill 24, which is ti­tled the “Child Plac­ing Agency In­clu­sion Act,” but in­stead of en­cour­ag­ing child place­ment it would per­mit agen­cies to deny place­ment of chil­dren into LGBT house­holds.

The new law al­lows child place­ment agen­cies, which often are re­li­gious-af­fil­i­ated groups, such as Catholic adop­tion agen­cies, to deny place­ment in LGBT-headed homes.

Ac­cord­ing to AL.com, Ivey said she signed HB 24 into law to en­sure faith-based adop­tion agen­cies can con­tinue to work in the state.

“I ul­ti­mately signed House Bill 24 be­cause it en­sures hun­dreds of chil­dren can con­tinue to find ‘for­ever homes’ through re­li­giously af­fil­i­ated adop­tion agen­cies,” Ivey re­port­edly said. “This bill is not about dis­crim­i­na­tion, but in­stead pro­tects the abil­ity of re­li­gious agen­cies to place vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in a per­ma­nent home.”

Ivey’s ac­tions called ‘shame­ful’

The bill was ap­proved by the Sen­ate on May 3 by a 23-9 vote and by the House in March by a 60-14 vote. Af­ter Sen­ate pas­sage of HB 24, the House gave fi­nal ap­proval of the mea­sure by a vote of 87-0, with six ab­sten­tions, to con­cur with a change made by the up­per cham­ber of the leg­is­la­ture.

Ivey’s sig­na­ture was ex­pected. Eileen Jones, an Ivey spokesper­son, told the Wash­ing­ton Blade last month her boss “plans to sign it pend­ing a le­gal re­view.”

Kasey Suf­fre­dini, chief pro­grams of­fi­cer for Free­dom for All Amer­i­cans, was among those who crit­i­cized Ivey for sign­ing the bill in a state­ment.

“The first pri­or­ity of law­mak­ers should be the safety and well be­ing of chil­dren, es­pe­cial-

May 12, 2017

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law House Bill 24, which LGBT rights ac­tivists say could al­low dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT fam­i­lies seek­ing to adopt a child. (Photo by Fort Rucker; cour­tesy Wiki­me­dia Com­mons) ly those who are in need of safe and lov­ing homes,” Suf­fre­dini said. “It is shame­ful that Gov. Ivey and law­mak­ers in Alabama would jeop­ar­dize those chances in or­der to ad­vance dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT peo­ple.”

Also crit­i­ciz­ing Ivey was Alex Smith, board chair of Equal­ity Alabama, who said in a state­ment the gover­nor was break­ing her prom­ise to usher in a new style of gov­ern­ment af­ter suc­ceed­ing for­mer Gov. Robert Bent­ley fol­low­ing his res­ig­na­tion amid scan­dal.

“When she was sworn in as gover­nor, Kay Ivey promised her ad­min­is­tra­tion would be a breath of fresh air from the scan­dals of the Bent­ley era, and we hoped she wouldn’t start her ad­min­is­tra­tion by ap­prov­ing shame­ful dis­crim­i­na­tory leg­is­la­tion that ul­ti­mately does the most harm to chil­dren look­ing for lov­ing homes,” Smith said. “Un­for­tu­nately, Gov. Ivey put spe­cial in­ter­ests ahead of the wel­fare of Alabama chil­dren.”

Haslam signs HB 1111

In Ten­nessee, Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law on May 5 House Bill 1111, which re­quires un­de­fined words in Ten­nessee state law, such as gen­der pro­nouns, be en­forced un­der their “nat­u­ral” mean­ing. That could set up the state for con­flict with the U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion in fa­vor of same-sex mar­riage na­tion­wide if Ten­nessee im­ple­ments a new law to deny ben­e­fits to same-sex cou­ples.

In a state­ment de­fend­ing his de­ci­sion to sign the law, Haslam was con­sis­tent with prin­ci­ples on which the ju­di­ciary rely, de- ny­ing the mea­sure would con­flict with the Oberge­fell de­ci­sion.

“The lan­guage of this bill is for a gen­eral def­i­ni­tions sec­tion of the Ten­nessee code, which de­fines ‘road’ and ‘sher­iff,’ among other com­mon terms,” Haslam said. “For at least 150 years, courts in­clud­ing the Ten­nessee Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court have looked to a word’s nat­u­ral and or­di­nary mean­ing when de­cid­ing cases. In re­view­ing this bill, I do not be­lieve the leg­is­la­tion ac­com­plishes any­thing that isn’t al­ready re­lied upon by the courts, even af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court’s Oberge­fell de­ci­sion in 2015.”

‘This sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent’

HB 1111, spon­sored by Sen. John Stevens (R-Hunt­ing­don) and Rep. An­drew Farmer (R-Se­vierville), was passed in the House by a vote of 70-23 and the Sen­ate by a vote of 23-6.

Sarah War­be­low, le­gal direc­tor for the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, said de­spite Haslam’s as­sur­ance, the new law would have a neg­a­tive im­pact on LGBT fam­i­lies in Ten­nessee.

“Gov. Haslam has cho­sen to put pure pol­i­tics ahead of Ten­nessee’s women and LGBTQ peo­ple,” War­be­low said. “This dra­co­nian mea­sure will open the state up to many ex­pen­sive le­gal chal­lenges and di­vert state re­sources to de­fend­ing an un­nec­es­sary, un­con­sti­tu­tional mea­sure. The gover­nor should be ready to an­swer for the fall­out sign­ing this bill will cause.”

It’s not the first time Haslam has signed into law an anti-LGBT mea­sure. Last year, the gover­nor signed Sen­ate Bill 1556, which pro­vides im­mu­nity un­der state law to coun­selors who ob­ject to care based on “sin­cerely held prin­ci­ples,” in­clud­ing re­fusal to treat pa­tients based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.

Zeke Stokes, vice pres­i­dent of pro­grams for GLAAD, said in a state­ment Haslam opened up the flood­gates for dis­crim­i­na­tion by sign­ing HB 1111 into law.

“By the stroke of a pen, Gov. Haslam has now placed the fu­ture of the state’s econ­omy and the well-be­ing of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity in jeop­ardy,” Stokes said. “HB 1111 has the po­ten­tial to un­der­mine mar­riages be­tween LGBTQ cou­ples, nul­lify a trans­gen­der per­son’s true iden­tity un­der law and put LGBTQ fam­i­lies at risk. This sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for how the LGBTQ com­mu­nity is treated in Ten­nessee mov­ing for­ward.”

By CHRIS JOHN­SON, Wash­ing­ton Blade cour­tesy of the Na­tional LGBTQ Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion

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