Arizona gov. signs law prohibiting discrimination against faith-based adoption, foster care agencies

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a bill prohibiting discrimination against faith-based adoption and foster care organizations, including forcing them to place children in same-sex households when it goes against their religious beliefs.

Known as Senate Bill 1399 and signed on Wednesday, the measure says the state government or anyone suing to enforce a law “may not take any discriminatory action against” a person or group that “declines to provide” adoption or foster care services due to “the person’s religious belief or exercise of religion.”  

Additionally, the new law says that public entities or private individuals “may not discriminate against a person” who has custody of an adopted child or foster child “on the basis that the person” plans to “raise a child in a manner consistent with the person’s religious belief or exercise of religion.”

“If a contractor has a religious objection to providing services required by a contract, the contractor shall submit with their contract proposal an alternative approach to meet the services required by the contract,” continued the new law.

“The contractor may satisfy the contract obligations by collaborating with other contractors to provide services that the contractor objects to providing based on a religious belief or exercise of religion.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Greg Chafuen, whose conservative law firm is based in Scottsdale, released a statement Wednesday commending Arizona for “enacting these critical protections and keeping kids first.”

“When faith-based foster care service providers are empowered to operate according to their beliefs, more providers can recruit and serve more foster families to provide more loving homes to children in Arizona’s foster care system,” stated Chafuen.

“Under SB 1399, Arizona’s faith-based adoption and foster care providers can continue to serve the state’s most vulnerable children in a manner consistent with the faith that inspires their service and unafraid of government discrimination.”

Critics of the legislation included GLSEN Phoenix, an LGBT advocacy group based in Arizona, which argued that SB 1399 was unnecessary given preexisting state rules.

“[S]ome of Arizona’s 25 foster care licensing agencies have religious affiliations and some do not. Having an array of foster care licensing agencies is important to ensuring the wide availability of services to all qualified families interested in fostering a child,” claimed GLSEN Phoenix in a statement last month.

“No agency in Arizona is required to provide services that conflict with its religious beliefs. In fact, just last year, [the Department of Child Safety] created an online portal to orient interested families to the process and to help them connect with an agency that aligns with their needs and beliefs.”

Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that a Catholic charity could not be excluded from a government foster care program because the organization would not place children with same-sex couples for religious reasons. 

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