AUSTIN, Texas – Texas (search) could become the only state to bar gays from becoming foster parents under legislation passed Wednesday by the House.
The ban is part of a bill to revamp the state's Child Protective Services (search) agency. It passed 135-6 with two abstentions and now heads to the Senate.
The foster parent amendment is not included in the Senate version of the legislation, but that body could accept the House bill.
"It is our responsibility to make sure that we protect our most vulnerable children, and I don't think we are doing that if we allow a foster parent that is homosexual or bisexual," said Republican Rep. Robert Talton, who introduced the amendment.
If the House version of the bill becomes law, Texas would be the only state to prohibit homosexuals and bisexuals from becoming foster parents, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (search) Lesbian and Gay Rights project.
Arkansas had barred gays from becoming foster parents, but a judge said the law was unconstitutional in December.
Under the Texas House bill, anyone who applies to be a foster parent or a foster parent whose performance is being evaluated must say whether he or she is homosexual or bisexual. Anyone who answers yes would be barred from serving as a foster parent. If the person is already a foster parent, the child would be removed from the home.
Talton wouldn't comment Wednesday, but during debate on the bill the day before he said, "I don't think it is right for young children to be exposed to this type of behavior when they are young and innocent."
Eva Thibaudeau, a social worker, said she and her partner of eight years have adopted four children and have served as foster parents to 75.
"I am just so hurt and surprised, especially now (when) we are facing an ongoing crisis of not having enough resources to take care of foster children," she said.
Randall Ellis, executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, estimated that between 2,000 and 2,500 children could be affected.
"The truth is that a parent's sexual orientation has no negative consequence on the children that are raised in those homes," he said.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry does not want the child protection bill to get bogged down with a "side issue," though he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.
The bill to overhaul the system follows recent child slayings that occurred after caseworkers investigated suspicions of neglect or abuse and decided the children were safe to remain with their parents.
It would give all of Child Protective Services' foster care and case management duties to private companies, which already manage 75 percent of foster homes in Texas.