By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
In order to prevent discrimination, we need to discriminate.
That seemed to be the message Wednesday morning in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting, as Sen. Bill Hightower pushed a bill that would purportedly protect religiously-affiliated adoption agencies from discrimination by the State.
Or to put that another way – a way Hightower repeatedly refused to say out loud – the bill allows Christian adoption agencies that don’t want to place children with gay couples to do so without facing a loss of their State licenses for discrimination.
We need to discriminate to keep from discriminating.
It’s a bill that encapsulates all that is bad and flawed with Alabama politics.
It’s shortsighted, naïve, mean-spirited and utterly worthless.
As one speaker noted, if you allowed every faith-based adoption agency in Alabama to shut down, it would have almost no effect on the adoption rates.
Because the biggest challenge facing adoption isn’t finding enough agencies to facilitate the adoptions. It’s finding enough willing adoptive families to take in the more than 5,000 foster children in Alabama.
There’s also this fact: in many of the adoptions facilitated by the private, faith-based agencies, the mother or family members of the adoptive children play some role in selecting the adoptive families. Which means they have every opportunity to place their children with adoptive families that have characteristics, even beliefs, that are important to them.
But that doesn’t matter, apparently.
Our lawmakers see a situation in which a Christian organization could be treated like all other organizations, and, well, we must stop this clear miscarriage of justice.
It also didn’t matter that Birmingham Rev. Charles Perry – undoubtedly as devout as any Christian in the room – attempted to point out the ramifications of such a shortsighted piece of legislation.
“What happens if an agency seeks to prevent an interracial couple from adopting?” Perry asked. “What if a Catholic agency blocks the adoption of a Baptist couple? What if an Islamic agency wants to first assure Sharia Law will be upheld? This is what you’re opening the door to with this.”
And he’s right.
But it doesn’t matter.
Sen. Cam Ward was also right when he asked if similar legislation in other states has been shot down by courts – it has – and if tax dollars being used by the agencies meant they had to follow the anti-discrimination policy – they do.
But again, it didn’t matter.
Sen. Tim Melson was also right when he asked for more information on how adoptions are carried out, if the mother of the child has some say in who can adopt her child. He also wanted to know what information the agencies sought from would-be adoptive parents.
Melson indicated he was supporting Hightower’s bill, but felt that he needed more information first. He wanted to hold the bill over, have a properly announced public hearing – since Wednesday’s was more of an impromptu hearing that wasn’t on any schedule – before having a vote.
Several of Melson’s colleagues seemed to agree with him.
But again, it didn’t matter.
At the end of it all, despite the problems already known and the potential problems provided to the committee, and despite several committee members requesting more information to better understand the bill, those same committee members voted to give it a favorable report and send it to the full House for a vote.
Because who can say no to a good Christian pander?