The governor of Tennessee is catching heat for signing a bill that allows religious-based adoption agencies the right to deny services to anyone, including LGBTQ families.
The measure, which Gov. Bill Lee signed into law on Friday, also protects those agencies from getting sued or retaliated against for rejecting an applicant for "foster care or adoption if it violates their written religious or moral convictions or policies," according to House Bill 836.
The bill passed by the Tennessee state Senate on Jan. 14 with a 20 to 6 vote. Five members were present but abstained from voting. After the Senate passed the bill, Lee promised to sign the bill once it hit his desk.
"The governor believes that protection of rights is important, especially religious liberty," said Gillum Ferguson, a spokesman for Lee. "This bill is centered around protecting the religious liberty of Tennesseans and that’s why he signed it."
An online petition titled "This Anti LGBTQ+ anti adoption law needs to be repealed. All kids deserve a loving family," launched Jan. 15.
"With the restrictions on abortion in this state, foster care and adoption centers will soon be full of children and babies just needing a loving home," wrote Joshua Lindsey, who started the campaign. "The amount of citizens adopting is already scarce enough, this law will only add to the problem."
The petition, which has more than 5,000 of the requested 7,500 signatures as of Saturday afternoon, is calling for the bill to get repealed.
This law doesn’t change the reality that faith-based adoption agencies are already allowed not to violate their beliefs, a source familiar with the law told ABC News. This law gives them legal protection should they be sued for exercising those beliefs, the source said.