This morning a proposed bill that would prevent gay people from adopting was handed a significant defeat in a key committee.
The Tennessee House Children and Family Affairs Committee voted 11 to 9 to defeat the bill, with House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D – Covington) taking the unusual step of speaking to the committee and voting against the bill.
While there are other procedures which could keep the bill alive, the defeat in the committee was significant.
“We would like to thank Speaker Naifeh and the members of the House of Representatives who voted against the bill, said Chris Sanders, spokesman for the Tennessee Equality Project. “They showed leadership in standing up for the children of Tennessee and standing against discrimination. This was a joint effort of the Tennessee Equality Project and the American Civil Liberties Union."
The Greater Nashville Lambda Deomcrats also took part in lobbying against the bill, according to GNLD President Jennifer Nash.
Naifeh told committee members that he had spoken to his daughters about the bill, and they “said that discrimination was wrong.” He said that he had spoken with high school students in Haywood County (in the district he represents) and they thought the bill was wrong.
"We are very grateful to the 11 legislators who stood up for ‘the best interest of the child’ and did not allow the political posturing of those supporting the bill to influence their vote," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the Tennessee ACLU chapter. "This adoption ban bill would have punished children by restricting the number of adoptive homes available. In addition, by singling out lesbians and gay persons for categorical exclusion from the pool of adoptive parents, when there is no child welfare basis for doing so, the bill violated the guarantee of equal protection under the law."
An amended version of the bill, sponsored by Chris Clem (R-Lookout Mountain), had been put before the House Domestic Relations Subcommittee, who approved the version that said married couples would be given priority in the adoption process, but that individuals (gay or straight) may adopt. Clem’s original bill would have prohibited any “practicing homosexual” from adopting children.