House Bill 836, which Lee signed Friday, will allow taxpayer-funded child welfare organizations to discriminate against same-sex couples and others based on religious objections.
“It’s disturbing that Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that will harm children in Tennessee,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Elected officials should protect all of their constituents, not just some. Now, Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year. This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans. With many months ahead in the Tennessee legislative session, Tennesseans should make their voices heard — loudly — to ensure that the legislature and Gov. Lee do not continue to target LGBTQ Tennesseans.”
More from the Associated Press: A handful of states to date have enacted similar legislation including Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia, Mississippi and Michigan. But Michigan agreed in settling an ACLU lawsuit to no longer turn away LGBT couples or individuals because of religious objections. Earlier this month, state Sen. Paul Rose — the bill’s sponsor — conceded during a floor debate that he didn’t think the bill was necessary, pointing out that President Donald Trump’s administration is currently proposing a rule that would impose the same protections. Yet he said he advanced the idea because there was no guarantee Trump would be reelected later this year.