Update: Governor, speaker call on Senate to act on ‘clean’ adoption bill

Update 2:55 p.m.: Gov. Nathan Deal and Speaker David Ralston are calling on senators to act today.

“Act quickly to protect our most vulnerable citizens and send me a clean bill I can sign,” Deal told the AJC in a statement.

“This is a much-needed reform to our adoption code, which hasn’t been addressed for 27 years,” Deal said. “It would make the adoption process easier for children and families, and we must do everything in our power to protect our foster children.”

The governor called on Senate leaders to “remove the amendment and act quickly to pass this bill.”

Ralston told the AJC it is “disappointing and troubling” that the Senate waited until now to add a “divisive” amendment to an important bill.

"The quickest and most reasonable way to get it passed is for them to remove this language that they chose to put on, as I understand it, about an hour before it came into a Senate committee. That's the right way to do it.”

Georgia’s business community joined in the calls for the original form of the bill to advance.

"The recent changes made to HB 159 could allow groups receiving state taxpayer dollars to discriminate against other Georgians,”

Hala Moddelmog, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and Clark, president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said in a joint statement. “The Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber strongly oppose this new language because it jeopardizes a good bill and unfortunately prevents modernizing a system that could improve the lives of Georgia's children in foster care."

Original post: House leaders on Friday called on their Senate counterparts to reverse course and move an adoption bill that stalled in the other chamber over an amendment some call anti-LGBT.

State House Majority Whip Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said House Bill 159 needs to move in its original form.

“Unfortunately, our colleagues over in the other chamber have sought to politicize the measure, and I call on the Senate this morning to do the bidding of all the people of the state of Georgia: Make it free from political wrangling so families in this state can afford to efficiently adopt little babies and give them homes they so desperately need,” Coomer said.

Oliver said: “House Bill 159 honors those people who make the generous decision to give a baby or receive a baby. It is so important the quality work done by experts in the adoption area be honored by us and that HB 159 pass for our constituents.”

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta.

The Senate Judiciary Committee debated HB 159 Thursday evening but took no action. With fewer than three days remaining in this year's legislative session, it's likely the bill is dead for the year.

The original bipartisan bill to modernize Georgia's adoption laws was changed last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee to include language to protect agencies that accept taxpayer-subsidized grants but don't want to place children with all families.

Critics say it would allow publicly funded private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBT families.

The author of the amendment, state Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, vowed to pursue the effort. He said the effects of the changes had been "grossly misconstrued" and that "the amendment is not discriminatory on its face."

But it's become clear the bill can't pass with Ligon's amendment. Gov. Nathan Deal, too, has called on the Senate to reverse course.

Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, noted that Deal knows a thing or two about Georgia's adoption laws.

“The last major rewrite of our adoption laws were authored by a former member of the state Senate named Nathan Deal,” Ralston said. “I would listen to that authority on adoption if I were a member of this General Assembly.”