(CNSNews.com) -- The Georgia Senate passed legislation on Friday that would protect the religious beliefs of adoption agencies and foster care groups that receive taxpayer money and decline to place children in homes headed by homosexual or lesbian couples.
Senator William Ligon (R- District 3), who sponsored the legislation, stressed that the bill does not interfere with adoption agencies that want to place children in gay homes but that it protects adoption groups who oppose such arrangements on religious grounds. The agencies that want to place children with any type of "couple" can do so and those who want children palced with a mom and dad are free to do so -- they won't be forced to place children in same-sex homes.
"Just because you are a faith-based organization doesn't mean you have to check your faith at the door and cannot participate in government programs," Sen. Ligon told WRAL.com.
The legislation passed in the Senate 35-19. The bill now goes to the Georgia House.
The "Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act" says that "maintaining a diverse network of adoption and foster care service providers which accommodate children from various cultural backgrounds is a high priority of this state such that reasonable accommodations should be made to allow people of different geographical regions, backgrounds, and beliefs to remain within and become a part of such network."
"The General Assembly finds that it is important that decisions regarding the placement of children be made using the best interests of the child standard, including using child-placing organizations best able to provide for a child's physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional needs and development," reads the legislation. "The General Assembly finds that child-placing agencies have the right to provide services in accordance with the agencies' sincerely held religious beliefs."
The bill specifically allows "a child-placing agency to decline to accept a referral from the department and decline to perform services not referred under a contract with the department based on the child-placing agency's sincerely held religious beliefs; to prevent the department from discriminating against or causing any adverse action against a child-placing agency based on its sincerely held religious beliefs...."
The Human Rights Campaign, a pro-homosexual advocacy group, criticized the legislation. “Plain and simple -- SB 375 is discrimination dressed up as a ‘solution’ to a fake problem,” said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign.
“It creates an unnecessary hardship for potential LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents in Georgia and primarily harms the children looking for a loving home," said Rouse. "It’s unfortunate that leaders are focusing on this bill, instead of concrete ways to improve the child welfare system in Georgia. We ask the Georgia House of Representatives to reject this bill.”