Sen. Alan Clark this week amended his SB 352 aimed at allowing private adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against gay people.  Perhaps the legislature should consider news from Michigan this week and past history in considering this legislation.

Clark’s bill doesn’t explicitly discriminate against would-be LGBT parents. Instead, it follows the popular new pretext, that those who have religious objections to gay people must have their religion defended, even in providing state-sanctioned and financed services. This is Trump administration policy now.

From Michigan, however:

Michigan settled a lawsuit that challenged the state’s practice of contracting with foster care and adoption agencies that refused to provide services that conflicted with their religious beliefs.

As part of the settlement, the state agreed to end contracts with agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals that “may otherwise be qualified foster care or adoptive parents” for children in state custody.

However, under the terms of the agreement, the state cannot take adverse action against agencies engaged in private actions — such as private-adoption or direct-placement services — that are not performed on the state’s behalf.

Clark’s bill explicitly allows government contracts with agencies that refuse to participate “in a child placement that violates the sincerely held religious beliefs of the child welfare agency.” Sexual orientation is just one category that might raise a religious objection, of course, but that’s the real issue here.

Advertisement

I mentioned past history. It was once official state policy to prohibit gay people from being foster parents. The Arkansas Supreme Court (composed then of much different justices) struck down the agency rule. Voters then approved an initiated act banning gay adoption and foster parenting. The Supreme Court also struck down that law. Since then, the religious pretext has emerged nationally as a way to impose religion as a defense in refusing to cover birth control in health insurance policies, allowing health professionals not to participate in medical procedures to which they object and allowing discrimination against gay people in housing, employment and public services.

The effect is legal discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religion. Which is ironic, or something.

Mean is another word that comes to mind for a legislature bent on punishing poor people by withholding health coverage and food stamps, making unemployment benefits smaller and harder to get, rolling back a minimum wage increase, piling up sales taxes and cutting income taxes for the ultrarich. The governor and his allies also are pushing to put tax dolllars in private schools, many of which discriminate against gay people, not to mention, in some cases, the disabled, the poor and the non-English-speaking.