Georgia's Senate has approved a bill that will allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT couples.
Senate Bill 375, also known as the 'Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act', gives legal protection to faith-based adoption agencies receiving taxpayer funding to refuse to place children with people whose lifestyle they do not agree with, including unmarried couples, single parents and LGBT couples.
It also prevents Georgia's Department of Human Services from taking "adverse action" against adoption and foster agencies that bar LGBT couples from adopting.
The bill, which was introduced by Republican state Senator William Ligon, was approved by a 35-19 vote last week after an hour of debate, the Independent reports.
Ligon argued that the bill would not allow for discrimination and would increase adoptions in the state. He also claimed the bill is needed to ensure that faith-based organisations are not kept out of civic life.
He said: "Just because you are a faith-based organisation, doesn't mean you have to check your faith at the door and cannot participate in government programs."
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, condemned the bill. She said: "Senate Bill 375 is a dangerous step backward that would codify permission to discriminate against the LGBTQ community into Georgia state law.
"This bill is not about freedom of religion, which is one of our nation's fundamental values, but rather about imposing one's personal beliefs on others to discriminate against loving foster or adoptive parents simply because of their identity and deny services to LGBTQ youth."
The Georgia State Capitol Building
Democratic state Senator Nan Orrock, who represents an Atlanta district, said that the legislation is a "backward attempt" at discrimination and will hurt children.
"This proposition that we should... protect agencies that are gonna deny loving families the opportunity to adopt a child from our foster care system is just backward on its face."
Meanwhile, Georgia Equality announced they had organised a rally on Thursday (March 1) against the legislation . The march will start at 1pm at the Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, opposite the Capitol building.
To register for the rally and to find out more information, visit equalityfederation.com.