Last edited: December 06, 2004

New Texas Legislation Targets Gay Foster Parents, Sodomy

Fort Worth Star Telegram, January 2, 1999
P. O. Box 1870,Fort Worth, TX 76101
Fax 817-390-7789

By Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Associated Press

AUSTIN – Social workers are rigorous in their search for potential foster and adoptive parents. They call references, check criminal backgrounds and calculate finances.

And if two Texas lawmakers get their way, social workers will consider sexual preference, too.

State Reps. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, have filed bills to ban the placement of children into gay or lesbian households.

Chisum said such households provide an improper atmosphere for raising children.

"It is not conducive to Judeo-Christian beliefs and it can be destructive for the children," he said, adding that heterosexual couples offer the most solid home and best lifestyle.

Gay and lesbian advocates point to American Psychological Association studies which have determined sexual orientation is irrelevant to a parent's ability to raise a child.

"People who support proposals like this say they are pro-family, but what more antifamily thing can you do than to say to children in foster care that we are going to deny you the opportunity to be raised by loving parents who could give you a good home and leave you in institutional care instead?" asked Matt Coles, director of the lesbian and gay rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services reports an average of 1,850 children are available for adoption each month in Texas for some 2,000 willing households. The numbers are even greater in foster care – about 11,000 children are living with some 6,000 licensed foster families on any given month.

Stewart Davis, an agency spokesperson, said matching families' and children's criteria is complex. Some children want to stay with their siblings and families often request a particular age, race, and gender.

"This legislation would reduce the potential number of families that could be considered for foster care and adoption," he said.

A state child welfare worker who sued the agency in September was the inspiration for the bills.

Rebecca Bledsoe, a 12-year employee of the agency's Child Protective Services division, said the agency demoted her for taking a 3-month-old boy from a lesbian couple's home in Dallas. According to a grievance she filed last year with the agency, she reasoned "homosexual conduct is against the law in Texas."

The law she cited also is up for consideration in the 1999 Legislature, which convenes Jan. 12. Rep. Debra Danburg, D-Houston, has filed a bill to repeal a clause in the Texas Penal Code which makes "sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex" a Class C Misdemeanor.

Suzanne Goldberg, a lawyer for the national gay legal group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, called the state's 119-year-old anti-sodomy law an outrageous invasion of privacy.

"It licenses police to enter the bedrooms of consenting adults," said Ms. Goldberg.

In September, two Houston men were caught in the act while police were responding to a false report of an armed intruder. The men pleaded no contest to sodomy charges and then appealed with a motion to quash the charges.

The case could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, as the men's challenges are based upon state and federal constitutional questions involving privacy rights.

But Ms. Danburg may have a hard time getting the bill past Texas, where the anti-sodomy law has some staunch support.

"It is easy to see how society is going in the wrong direction; we don't need to take any other barriers down that would further advance our decline in morality," said Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land.

Rep. Warren Chisum's bill is HB 382.
Rep. Robert Talton's bill is HB 415.
Rep. Debra Danburg's bill is HB 337.

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