TN Law Meant To Let Christians Discriminate Against Gays Being Used To Discriminate Against Jews
Back in January of 2020, Tennessee GOP Governor Bill Lee excitedly signed a law meant to allow Christian adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples looking to adopt and, we guess, boost the self-esteem of people who for some reason just can't be happy unless they get to be legally superior to some other group of people.
“The governor believes that protection of rights is important, especially religious liberty," a spokesman for Lee said at the time. "This bill is centered around protecting the religious liberty of Tennesseans and that’s why he signed it."
Because the bill was technically supposed to be about "protecting religious liberty" and not explicitly about legislating homophobia -- a common trick with laws like these -- the wording of it was vague. Religious adoption agencies were given the right to refuse to place children with those who "violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies," as opposed to just giving them license to discriminate against gay people.
Turns out, gay people are not the only people a Christian adoption agency will claim they must discriminate against due to their "written religious or moral convictions or policies." A male-female married couple is now suing the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services because Holston United Methodist Home For Children, a state-sponsored Christian adoption agency in Greenville, discriminated against them for being Jewish.
The adoption agency, the Holston United Methodist Home for Children based in Greeneville, Tennessee, denied Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram from acquiring Tennessee-mandated foster-parent training and a home-study certification as they attempted to adopt a child from Florida last year, the Rutan-Rams say. [...]
After realizing they could not have biological children of their own, in early 2021 the Rutan-Rams located a child in Florida they were excited about fostering with plans to adopt. They say they were initially told by Holston that the organization would help them with their out-of-state placement.
However, on the day they were to begin their training, the organization told them it only serves families who share their Christian belief system, the lawsuit says. The couple was not able to complete the process to become foster parents to the child.
Holston apparently loves discriminating while using public funds so much that they actually sued the Biden administration in December over a new law denying federal Health and Human Services funding to organizations that discriminate “on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and same-sex marriage status.” They claim this violates their First Amendment right to use taxpayer money to discriminate against taxpayers they happen to not like. The First Amendment of what, we don't know, because it sure as hell isn't the United States Constitution.
The Rutan-Rams are represented in their lawsuit by Americans United For Church and State.
“The Tennessee Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, promises religious freedom and equality for everyone. Tennessee is reneging on that promise by allowing a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram because they are Jews,” Alex J. Luchenitser, associate vice president and associate legal director at Americans United, said in a news release.
“Public funds should never be used for religious discrimination,” Luchenitser told Knox News. “The law should never create obstacles that keep loving parents from taking care of children who need a home. That should certainly never occur because of religious discrimination.”
Anti-LGBTQ bigots have long tried to present the discrimination they want to do as somehow fundamentally different from discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity or religion. They have claimed it's different from "the bad kind" of discrimination because it's about their religious morals and not about just hating another group of people for no reason. This would probably come as a surprise to all of the people who also used the Bible to justify Jim Crow, segregation and slavery, and claimed their desire to discriminate and oppress others had nothing to do with hatred.
But it's all the same damn thing.
Hopefully if these people win their lawsuit — the first official challenge to the law itself — state-funded adoption agencies in Tennessee will be prohibited from discriminating against people not only for their religion, but for any other reason that has nothing to do with whether or not they will be good parents.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse