Georgia bill headed to Senate floor could reject same-sex couples from adoption agencies

Georgia bill headed to Senate floor could reject same-sex couples from adoption agencies
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Bill and Tracy Saunders got married knowing they wanted to adopt. Years later, they have a full house with six adopted children. Just as any parent, they say they are exhausted but elated to have all seven in their lives. The process of adopting has its challenges.

"We have to fill out reams of paperwork to become adoptive parents," Bill Saunders said. "It's a long process."

When they heard about Senate Bill 375, they couldn't believe some couples would have to jump through even more hoops to adopt. If Georgia Senate Bill 375 passes, same-sex couples could be rejected from adoption agencies that are funded by taxpayer money.

"If you are going to take public money to do a job for the public than you should not be able to exclude the public," Tracy Saunders said.

It passed in the Senate committee on Tuesday, and it will make its way to the Senate floor soon. A few other states already have similar laws in place.

Senator William Ligon, the author of the bill, is a Republican representing Brunswick. Supporters say the bill is intended to boost adoption rates, but some in Savannah don't believe it.

"Your primary goal is to place children with families that are going to love them and take care of them," Tracy Saunders said. "Just because your family doesn't look like your family doesn't mean that it's not a good family."

The bill says state's child-placing agencies have the right to provide services in accordance with the agencies' sincerely held religious beliefs. A local Savannah family law attorney says he's been handling adoption cases for fifteen years and Senate Bill 375 is more complex than denying adoption rights to couples living a non-traditional lifestyle.

"One of the reasons they're saying it well, we feel like the birth mother that we work with want to place their biological children with us with families that have a mother, a father and are married," Attorney Birney Bull said.

A senator representing the Atlanta district says not only does this bill discriminate against gays and unmarried couples, but it could hurt the economic impact of Georgia, especially the $9.5 billion that comes in from the film industry in our state.

"And if they think that employees would hesitate to want to be in Georgia because they feel like the law permits discrimination against them, then they are going to say that's not in the best interest of our company," said Senator Elena Parent.

Even though she's against it, Senator Parent says it could become a reality.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it passed in the Senate, but I hope it does not make its way into law," she said.

As of December 2017, 14,000 children were in the foster care system of Georgia. For the Saunders family, they say we should only be encouraging people to adopt.

"If you have people who are willing to step forward and do that job, then why would you deny them a family?" Tracy Saunders asked. "And make children wait longer in foster care just because you disagree with the decisions that the adults are making in their lives. Those decisions are not things that preclude them from being good parents."

You can read the full bill below:

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