ATLANTA – State representatives are urging their Senate colleagues to pass an adoption bill that stalled last year after a religious liberty amendment was added.
“It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog, but it’s not great to be a Georgia orphan or a Georgia family seeking adoption,” Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, said in the House Chamber on Tuesday, which was the second day of the new session.
The proposal aims to reflect the way adoptions – both domestic and international – are done today, said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, a co-sponsor of the measure and an attorney who has handled adoptions.
Oliver said Georgia has the fastest rate of growth of children in foster care in the country, with more than 13,000 children now in state care. The time it takes for children in Georgia to be adopted is about 30 months – more than twice the national average, Oliver said.
The measure would be the first update of the state’s adoption law in nearly 30 years. It had bipartisan support in the House last year, passing unanimously.
But the bill stalled in the Senate after a provision was added that would allow state-funded private agencies to refuse to place a child with same-sex couples or in other situations that conflict with their beliefs.
The bill then stalled in the final minutes of last year’s legislative session. It remains alive in the Senate.
“How can one claim to be a champion of life and kill adoption in Georgia?” said Coomer, who is also an attorney. “How can one claim to be a champion of religious liberty and create a false narrative in the debate over a bill claiming religious liberty is affected when it is not?”
House Speaker David Ralston, who has the power to hold up Senate bills, has said the adoption bill is one of his priorities.
“That bill needs to pass quickly for the good of this session, not to mention the good of hundreds and thousands of Georgia kids,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.