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Bill Would Prohibit Tennessee Dept. of Children’s Services From Forcing Gender Identity Beliefs On Foster & Adoptive Families

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The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

New legislation would protect foster and adoptive families from being forced to support policies that go against the family’s religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Senate Bill 1738 (SB1738), also known as the “Tennessee Foster and Adoptive Parent Protection Act”, was introduced by State Senator Paul Rose (R-Lauderdale/Shelby/Tipton Counties-District 32) on Wednesday and passed on first consideration Thursday.

The bill states that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services cannot require any current or prospective foster or adoptive families to accept “government policies” about sexual orientation and gender identity that are in conflict with the parents’ religious beliefs.

It also stipulates that the Department cannot use parents’ religious beliefs to make a determination regarding eligibility to foster or adopt or as consideration for the placement of a child in the home.

The bill states that the Department must fulfill its duty to “make placements consistent with the best interests of the child.”

This proposed change comes after last year’s “Forever Homes Act”, which Governor Bill Lee signed in an effort to streamline the process of fostering and adoption. That legislation shortened the waiting period for adoptions and also provided additional compensation and services to birth mothers. 

That new law was signed shortly after the state’s abortion ban went into effect with the intention of encouraging pregnant mothers to choose adoption instead.

The Tennessee Senate has already deferred potential legislation this year that would protect individuals in Tennessee from being forced to perform wedding ceremonies if their beliefs made it so that they were not in agreement with the terms of the marriage.

Senate Bill 0596 (SB0596), sponsored by Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon-District 17), was originally introduced in 2023 but was deferred until this year. On Tuesday it was deferred in the Senate Judiciary Committee until February 6, 2024.

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