Georgia State Capitol

Final efforts to pass anti-LGBTQ adoption bill fail as Georgia legislative session ends

Last-ditch efforts to pass an anti-LGBTQ adoption bill failed on the final day of the 2018 Georgia legislative session on Thursday, and for the fifth straight year, the session ended with the state avoiding passage of anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions bills.

All eyes were on House Bill 159 as this year’s legislative session started. The bill was an overhaul of Georgia’s adoption laws that would have likely passed in 2017 if an anti-LGBTQ provision weren’t added to it in the final days of the session. Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston made it clear in-between sessions that passing the bill without the provision was a priority, and they got their wish on Jan. 10 when a Senate committee stripped the anti-LGBTQ language and it later passed in both chambers on the way to becoming law.

However, as January turned to February, state Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) — who attached the anti-LGBTQ language to HB 159 — introduced the controversial provision as its own bill. Senate Bill 375 would “allow a child-placing agency to decline or accept a referral … and decline to perform services not referred under a contract … based on the child-placing agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill adds that the state would be prohibited from “discriminating against or causing any adverse action” against an agency that refused to perform services based on its religious beliefs. SB 375 passed out of committee on Feb. 20 and passed in the Senate on Feb. 23, but has languished in the House ever since.

State House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) had made it clear he wouldn’t bring the bill up for a hearing or a vote, but there was always the possibility of language from SB 375 being attached to another bill before the gavel fell on Sine Die. And that’s exactly what Ligon attempted early in Thursday’s session per the AJC:

An amendment that would have allowed some adoption agencies to deny placing children with same-sex couples was tacked on to a foster care measure. It was ruled non-germane.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, said he knows of two adoption agencies that would move to Georgia if the measure passed.

“We’re talking about children that no one is adopting, they’re aging out because no one is coming to get them,” said Ligon. “Surely we can work together on this, recognize that there are differences of opinion when it comes to marriage.”

There were reportedly several other attempts to attach the provision to other bills, all of which failed.

Other efforts to pass anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions bills this year gained little traction as Deal and Ralston made it clear of the impact they could have on the state’s business reputation. Speaking of, Gov. Deal says he’ll call a special session of the Legislature later this year if Amazon picks Atlanta as a top finalist for its second headquarters. The city is one of 20 contenders.