A packed gallery watches as the House of Representatives meets to vote in Austin, Texas, on July 9, 2013. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mike Stone

Why is Texas violating the rights of children who only want to be in homes with good parents?

NEW YORK (RNS) Around 12,000 children are waiting to be adopted in Texas, according to the Child Welfare League of America.

Yet, state lawmakers want to use taxpayer dollars to fund agencies that describe “good parents” narrowly as heterosexual Christians. This is double-fisted legalized discrimination on two grounds — religious freedom and the rights of LGBT people.

On May 10, the Republican-controlled lower chamber approved House Bill 3859 allowing adoption agencies to reject adoptive and foster parents on religious grounds.

Why is the state of Texas violating the rights of children whose only desire is to be placed in homes with good parents?

During over 30 years of ministry, I have met many friends and colleagues who are gay, single or happily married, and parenting children with the tenderness, attentiveness, devotion and delight that we would want for all children in the world.

These parents pace the floors at night singing to colicky babies in their arms and protect children from bullies, preside over homework, teach them to pray, take them to worship, ride roller coasters with them at Disney World, write college applications and cry at their weddings.

I have observed that because marriage and parenting have been denied to gay people for so long, there is an extra measure of attention given to these sacred relationships. The children in their care thrive and struggle, just like all human beings.

As any of us who grew up with heterosexual Christian parents know, these adjectives — heterosexual, Christian — do not define the perfect parents. Such unions can be loving and wonderful — never perfect — but there can as likely be neglect, abuse, abandonment, addiction, pathology, and trauma that never heals.

Being Christian is no guarantee of successful parenting. People of every religion — and with no religious affiliation — are among the wonderful parents I know. To offer adoption placements only to Christians violates the very heart of religious freedom — and surely will deny children awaiting adoption the chance to be placed in loving families.

So what is happening in Texas with state funds for adoption? Legislative power is being used to practice bigotry. Under the guise of protecting children and religious freedom, the state seeks to dictate regressive policy that privileges heterosexual marriage and Christians above other people of faith.

As Christians we are called on to embrace and love all of God’s children and loving children means making sure they receive as much love and care as they can. The appropriate criteria for adoption should be the willingness and capacity for a person or couple to create a loving, nurturing environment for a child to grow and thrive.

(The Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson is president of Auburn Seminary in New York City)