Sen. Mike Lee introduces bill on faith-based adoption agencies amid effort to expand LGBTQ protections

The Utah Republican says the legislation would allow these groups to act ‘in accordance with their beliefs.’

(Jim Watson | Pool file photo via AP) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, questions former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., as she testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a hearing to examine her nomination to be Secretary of Energy, Jan. 27, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lee is co-sponsoring legislation that seeks to allow faith-based adoption agencies to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws involving LGBTQ people.

Sen. Mike Lee is advancing legislation to address his concerns over bias against faith-based foster care and adoption agencies — a move that comes as congressional Democrats move forward with a bill prohibiting many of these agencies from discriminating against LGBTQ people.

“Religious institutions and faith-based groups have long provided some of the best adoption services in the country,” the Utah Republican said in a news release Wednesday. “This bill will protect their right to keep doing so in accordance with their beliefs, and ensure that children are not unnecessarily prevented from being adopted into loving homes.”

Earlier this month, Bethany Christian Services, an international foster care and adoption agency, announced that it would begin offering its services to LGBTQ parents, according to The New York Times. The nonprofit made the decision as a growing number of state and local officials around the nation are requiring that these agencies serve LGBTQ individuals or face the loss of government contracts.

Lee’s bill, titled the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, would bar federal, state and local government agencies that receive federal adoption assistance funding from taking such action against a provider for adhering to policies that reflect their religious beliefs, according to a news release.

He’s sponsoring the legislation with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S. C., and 21 other Republican lawmakers. The bill is also backed by religious and conservative organizations, such as the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Heritage Action and the Family Research Council, the news release stated.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are working to pass the Equality Act, a measure that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in public and private settings. The legislation has passed the House of Representatives on a nearly party-line vote but is not seen as likely to pass the evenly split Senate.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, has reintroduced legislation that he’s presented as an alternative to the Equality Act, saying his bill will ban discrimination against the LGBTQ community without infringing on religious liberty. However, major LGBTQ groups have long contended that Stewart’s legislation actually hardens discrimination against people by religious organizations and permits discrimination in the name of religion.