Phoenix-area LGBTQ+ community fear proposed SB 1399 for adoptive parents and children

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Discrimination or religious freedom – these are the differing views for proposed SB 1399, which involves the Arizona foster system. If passed, it would allow agencies to deny parents and children who do not share the same beliefs.

The proposed legislation worries the LGBTQ+ community in the Valley, who believe it discriminates against would-be adoptive parents and children. “It’s devastating, it’s absolutely devastating, it’s very hard for me not to be emotional about it,” said Dawn Wallschlaeger, who works for an adoption agency, the Arizona Children’s Association.

Along with his wife, Wallschlaeger adopted a child who is gender fluid. If the state passes SB 1399, people like Wallschlaeger and his wife could be denied adoption or promotion by a faith-based agency. Opponents of the bill also fear that children in the LGBTQ+ community could be coerced into observing these religious beliefs by agencies or adoptive parents.

“This bill could be so far-reaching, foster kids already are, research consistently already shows a higher percentage of suicides, suicide attempts, substance abuse,” Wallschlaeger said.

But advocates of the bill believe more faith-based families will come forward if they know they can foster a child with the same beliefs. “Protecting religious freedom in this case takes nothing away from anyone because couples who do not wish to work with the faith-based organization are free to work with other private providers or even directly with the state.” said Greg Chafuen, an Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer who supports the legislation. When pressed by lawmakers, Chafuen admits he didn’t see a problem with the current system in Arizona, but cited other examples across the country.

“We had a fight, it’s not an issue in Arizona,” said Jacob Schmitt, president and CEO of the Arizona Children’s Association, which is why the association believes it’s a an ill-intentioned bill. “So adding that extra layer does nothing but add discrimination,” Schmitt said.

The bill will be introduced in the House early next week; if passed, Governor Doug Ducey will sign it.

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