State Sen. William T. Ligon Jr. filed a bill that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex families. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Bill giving Georgia adoption agencies same-sex exemption returns

A Brunswick senator has introduced legislation that would allow adoption agencies to decline to place children with same-sex families based on their religious beliefs.

The Senate inserted similar language into House Bill 159 last legislative session, a move that killed the measure for the year.

Now, state Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, is bringing the issue back with the introduction of Senate Bill 375.

“Our faith-based agencies have provided a valuable and very important service in that regard for many years,” Ligon said. “What we’ve seen across the nation is that states have failed these agencies by forcing them to make a choice between violating their faith, which motivates them to do this service, or going out of business.”

Ligon said the issue of religious liberty remains a priority for many Senate Republicans to allow adoption agencies to choose not to place children with families that don’t align with their beliefs. But members of the LGBT community say the measure allows those organizations to discriminate.

“We have the same concerns with this legislation that we did with the amendment to the adoption bill last year,” said Jeff Graham, executive director for Georgia Equality, an organization that advocates for the LGBT community. “Limiting the number of loving couples and families that can adopt and foster kids here in Georgia is just wrong.”

Ligon said he believes his bill can pass the Legislature, even though both House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Gov. Nathan Deal have spoken openly against similar legislation.

“They’ll need to look at it and make their decision,” he said. “We hope that they will recognize the importance that our faith based agencies — and I believe that they will — provide in servicing a need in our state.”

Business leaders have said that they will continue to oppose such legislation, arguing that it’s an unnecessary distraction from business growth. They’ve also said contentious religious liberty debates could damage Georgia’s chances of landing Amazon and its 50,000 new jobs.

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