May 22 (UPI) -- The Texas Legislature passed a bill extending religious liberty protections to the child welfare system, which would allow adoption agencies to reject potential parents on religious grounds.
Texas' House Bill 3859 passed 21-10 in the Senate on Sunday after passing the House with a 109-34 vote on Friday.
The bill states the government or anyone working with the state's child welfare system who operates within Texas under government authority are not allowed to "discriminate or take any adverse action," such as lawsuits, against adoption agencies that choose to "decline to provide, facilitate or refer a person for child welfare services" due to their "sincerely held religious beliefs."
Religious adoption agencies also would be allowed to refuse to provide or facilitate abortion services and contraception to teens under their care and could require children under their care receive religious education.
"This bill aims to improve child welfare services through community-based foster care and requires better coordination and delivery of necessary medical services to children in the system," Texas Republican Rep. James Frank, who authored the bill, wrote a Facebook post on Friday. "By localizing foster care, we can bring in more families, more service providers and more resources into the system to help Texas children."
Frank said faith-based agencies make up about 25 percent of all adoption agencies in the state. The bill includes a provision that would require the government to provide an alternative adoption agency if a person is rejected by a faith-based provider.
Those who oppose the bill say the law would allow agencies to discriminate against potential parents who are gay, single or belong to a religion deemed inappropriate by the placement agency.
The ACLU of Texas on Sunday said the Texas legislature approved "discriminatory measures against LGBT Texans."
"HB3859 is taxpayer funded discrimination," the ACLU of Texas said in a statement. "Our most vulnerable kids will be on the losing end of this bill."