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LGBTQ foster kids do not have to be placed in accepting homes under new Tennessee law

Gov. Bill Lee has signed into law a measure enshrining anti-LGBTQ parents' right to adopt or foster queer kids.
TN Photo Services
Gov. Bill Lee has signed into law a measure enshrining anti-LGBTQ parents' right to adopt or foster queer kids.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed a law confirming that parents with anti-LGBTQ views are allowed to foster and adopt queer kids. The law comes after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a new rule requiring LGBTQ foster kids to be placed in supportive environments.

In its proposal, the HHS cited a growing body of research that finds LGBTQ foster kids are more likely to face abuse and harassment in the foster care system than their peers.

As part of the public comment period on the rule, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti argued that it illegally expands the HHS’ authority into family law, and that it would penalize foster-care providers for “declining to violate their own conscience or religion.”

HHS and the Administration for Children and Families did not respond to WPLN’s requests for comment or confirm where the proposed rule currently stands.

The measure’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Littleton of Dickson, said that the new law will help with a shrinking pool of parents fostering or adopting children in the state.

“The intention is for the best interest of the child. That’s the intention to put it in a home … where it would be happy and the parents would be happy as well,” Littleton argued on the House floor. “It’s for the protection of the child as well.”

Opponents have argued that LGBTQ children are overrepresented in the foster care system.

“You’re inflicting additional adverse child experiences on these children,” said attorney Nannette Clark in testimony against the bill. “These are children that have already experienced abuse and neglect, and these bills definitely would be contrary to the best interest of the child.”

Clark has served on the foster care review board and as a mediator in Davidson County Juvenile Court.

“Until recently, there was a DCS policy, and there were guidelines that address the needs for LGBT children in foster care,” she said. “That policy has disappeared from the DCS website.”

The law takes effect July 1.

Marianna Bacallao is a Cuban American journalist at WPLN and the new afternoon host for Nashville Public Radio. Before coming to Nashville, she was the morning host and general assignment reporter for WVIK Quad Cities NPR, where she hosted through a record-breaking wind storm that caused statewide power outages. A Georgia native, she was a contributor to Georgia Public Broadcasting during her undergrad years and served as editor-in-chief for Mercer University’s student newspaper.
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