State senate approves chilling new bill allowing homophobic families to adopt LGBTQ+ children

An outside image of the Tennessee state Capitol.

Tennessee could start allowing anti-LGBTQ+ families to adopt queer children after a Senate bill was approved this week.

Tennessee Senators voted on Tuesday (2 April) to introduce the Tennessee Foster and Adoptive Parent Protection Act to the Senate floor.

If passed, the bill would prohibit the Department of Children’s Services from excluding parents who have a moral or religious objection to LGBTQ+ people from adopting a child in state custody.

It will now be voted on by the House in a legislative session at a later date.

The Republican-backed bill claims that anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs would not “create a presumption” that a queer child would be in danger of abuse if adopted by such a family.

Cathryn Oakley stands in a studio speaking during a presentation.
Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director, Cathryn Oakley, said the law is a “violation” of fundamental rights. (YouTube/Human Rights Campaign)

So-called conversion therapy – the impossible attempt to change a child’s sexuality or gender identity often through religious practices – is not currently banned in Tennessee, meaning that, should the bill be passed, anti-LGBTQ+ adoptive families would currently be permitted to put a queer child through conversion practices.

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The bill’s sponsors include Republicans Mary Littleton, Johnny Garrett, David Hawk, Debra Moody, Greg Vital, Paul Sherrell, and Rush Bricken,, several of whom are notorious for voting in favour of anti-LGBTQ+ bills and purporting conspiracies about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Memphine Democrat, senator Raumesh Akbari, told Tennessee Lookout that the bill and its proposed measures are “cruel.”

“I just think that you shouldn’t be able to deny somebody’s basic existence because you say it affronts your religious or moral beliefs,” she said.

“That is between you and your god. It should not be something that potentially makes a child feel unwelcome and challenges who they are to their very core.”

Tennessee adoption bill ‘wrong and a violation of federal law’, experts say

Tennessee’s state legislature is one of the most notorious for introducing anti-LGBTQ+ bills and promoting harmful rhetoric.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has tracked at least 34 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in the state in 2024 alone.

Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) labelled Tennessee as a “high priority to achieve basic equality” in its 2023 State Equality Index, with effectively no protections for LGBTQ+ people.

HRC’s senior director of legal policy, Cathryn Oakley, said the proposed law is “wrong and a violation of federal law.”

“The best interest of the child is supposed to be the central organising principle of all decisions made in the child welfare system,” she said.

She added that the bill “upends” that principle and instead centres “the interests of potential foster and adoptive parents” regardless of safety.

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