LGTBQ couples hoping to adopt in Tennessee will soon have fewer ways to do it. That's because a new state bill would allow private agencies to reject their applications based on religious beliefs. 

"The idea is that a private agency that is faith-based, so if they have religious convictions about marriage being based on their interpretation of scripture between one man and one woman and they only want to place in traditional homes, (then) the state should not have the ability to come in and force them to violate those religious convictions," Adoption Attorney Mike Jennings explained. 
House Bill 836 was introduced in February 2019 during the General Assembly and passed in both the House and Senate during the first few days of this year's legislative session.

It's a topic that's causing nationwide controversy as states including Tennessee pick sides. The recent decision has left many members of the LGBTQ community like Myke Kelly feeling attacked. 

"Clearly the state is going after LGBTQ folks, but it impacts more than just us," Kelly told Channel 3.

According to Jennings, there are more than an estimated 1500 children in the state looking to be adopted. 

"Putting any limitations on the options for adopting and getting kids into loving homes I think it a terrible idea. It keeps more kids in the foster system," Kelly said.

But Jennings told Channel 3 he believes forcing religious groups to accept LGBTQ couples looking to adopt would make matters worse, resulting in agencies choosing to shut down instead.

"Would we rather have more agencies finding foster families (and) finding adoptive families or less agencies?" he asked.

The bill may stop same-sex couples from adopting through private agencies but it doesn't mean they can't adopt at all. 

"The bill doesn't say same-sex couples can't adopt. They can adopt and the largest source of adoptions in the State of Tennessee is through the Tennessee Department of Children Services," Jennings said.

Kelly believes it's just one of many bills under consideration that discriminate against LGBTQ members and limit their options. 

"There's the business license to discriminate, adoption discrimination bill, the anti-transgender student bathroom bill, the God-given marriage bill and then, recently, the ban on transgender students participating in school athletics," they listed.

Jennings says it's an issue that's part of a larger trend nationwide. States like Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and now Tennessee have passed legislation giving private agencies the power to decide, while states like California, Wisconsin and New York passed legislation that wouldn't allow religious groups to discriminate.