House Bill 3859 advanced with a 94-51 vote.
"Without this legislation, providers caring for 25 percent of the children in the Texas foster care system are likely going to cease providing foster care and adoption services because we're under a threat of a lawsuit nearly all the time from someone who doesn't like our high standard or requirements", Statler said.
Megan Lestino, vice-president of public policy for the National Adoption Council, said she knows about faith-based adoption agencies across the US that have denied LGBT and other prospective parents.
But Democratic lawmakers who lined up at a podium at the back of the House chamber to question Frank said the legislation would give religious groups license to discriminate against LGBT - or Jewish or divorced - parents who want to foster or adopt, or to avoid getting children vaccinated.
The bill, authored State Representative James Frank, is expected to come before the Texas Legislature this week. He said his bill "codifies" the choices adoption agencies are already making as they select parents.
HB 3859, which Republicans called the "Freedom to Serve Children Act", states that the government may not "take any adverse action against a child welfare services provider" who has "declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for child welfare services that conflict with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider 's sincerely held religious beliefs". But an approved bill on Tuesday would further shield such agencies from anti-discrimination lawsuits.
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Adoption agencies in the state of Texas, including both state-funded and private entities, could soon reject potential parents based on their religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, courtesy of a Republican-backed state legislative proposal. Five other states have passed similar proposals, the AP noted. The bill specifically notes that agencies may not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, or ethnicity, throwing into stark relief the legislature's intent to harm religious minorities, unmarried women, LGBTQ communities, and young people.
The bill requires a final vote Wednesday before it can advance to the Senate.
"HB 3859 is a wholesale rejection of LGBT people as foster and adoptive parents and it says to LGBTQ kids in the child welfare system; "there is something wrong with you".
Four states have passed legislation protecting private adoption agencies only, which Cooper said was seen by some to "codify" existing practices and fall within legal limits.
Abbott has declared fixing child protective services a priority in the face of rising investigator caseloads and child deaths. "It is shocking that the Texas House would respond to this crisis by prioritizing the personal religious beliefs of providers over the best interests of the children in the state's care".
Frank said his bill was created to draw as many participants as possible into adoption and foster care and said those who say the bill is discriminatory misunderstand it. "We were present at the birth", he said.