The House Committee on State Affairs will hear witness testimony on HB 3859 on Wednesday, March 29th, starting whenever the House adjourns for the day in Room E2.028 of the Capitol Extension. The proposed bill would allow child welfare organizations, agencies and employees that contract with the state to discriminate against LGBTQ families and others when making foster care and adoption decisions.
The primary consideration for a child welfare agency, organization, and its employees should always be the best interests of the child – not advancing the interests or beliefs of a state contractor. HB 3859 would allow the religious beliefs of child-placing agencies to be placed above the needs of our most vulnerable children. That could jeopardize the health and well-being of children in our system.
HB 3859 is clearly intended to permit individuals and organizations to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBTQ families and children. The proposed legislation would also allow state contractors and providers to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples, as well as people of different religious faiths or denominations. This is morally wrong and legally problematic.
Please come to the Capitol Complex on Wednesday, March 29 and register in opposition to HB 3859. We need a show of force!
WHAT: House State Affairs Committee Hearing on HB 3859
WHEN: Wednesday, March 29, 2017, starting upon adjournment
WHERE: [Room Change] Capitol Extension Room E2. 028
HOW: Watch this to learn how to register in opposition to HB 3859
If you have a personal story related to child welfare services to share with the committee and would like to testify, consider the talking points listed below. If you’d like help to plan out your story, please contact Ash.Hall@EqualityTexas.org
If your State Representative serves on the House State Affairs Committee, rush a message to them urging them to oppose HB 3859. (Click here to see members.)
Help stop all discriminatory “religious refusal” legislation by asking your State Representative to oppose all 13 anti-LGBTQ religious refusal bills.
Before Registering to Oppose HB 3859 or Testify Against HB 3859
- Know where to be for the hearing.The HB 3859 hearing is with the House State Affairs Committee. The hearing begins at whenever the House adjourns for the day in Room E2.028 of the Capitol Extension. The room will open either at 10 a.m. or soon after the House adjourns. Registration will open between 7:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. The Capitol opens at 7:00 a.m.
- Bring at least 20 copies of your written testimony. If you plan to supply a written testimony, you must give 20 copies of your written testimony to the clerk. Print these copies, and extra, before coming to the Capitol. (Note: You do not have to have a written testimony in order to register in opposition to HB 3859 or to testify.)
The Day of Committee Hearing
- Free 2-hour parking can be found in the Capitol’s visitors parking garage on 13th and San Jacinto. Street parking and other garages are around the Capitol.
- Registering at kiosks. Several kiosks for registering can be found near the hearing room in the Reagan Building and around the Capitol. When registering, these devices will prompt you to provide basic information such as name and address, what entity you’re representing (either yourself or an organization), your position on the bill (oppose HB 3859), and whether you plan to testify or only submit a written testimony. Representatives from Equality Texas will be there the day of to help you find these kiosks, however, kiosks can also be found using Capitol maps. For a more extensive guide, check out this video.
- Testifying is not required. If you only want to register in opposition to the bill, that is all you need to do. Testifying is an option for every citizen that wants to speak before the committee. If you have a personal story related to child welfare services to share with the committee and would like to testify, please follow these guidelines:
- Limit testimony to 2 minutes. Testimonies are usually timed and you will likely be allowed 2 minutes to complete your entire testimony. Utilize your time well and practice what you want to say beforehand. Remember that most testimonies are more conversational rather than academic. The key message is that religious refusal bills like HB 3859 are discriminatory.
- Typical Introduction. A standard introduction of your testimony includes “Chairman, and members of the committee, my name is Meryl Streep from Austin and I’m here to testify in opposition to HB 3859.”
- Use our data. Please feel free to use our researched data as well! See the Talking Points below or reach out to our Government Relations Manager, Ash Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Don’t be deterred. The hearing will start with the author of the bill, Rep. Frank, explaining his bill. This will be followed by questions for the author from committee members. Next, the committee will hear testimony from “invited” witnesses. These “invited” witnesses will all be supporters of HB 3859. Committee members may interrupt you to ask questions. If so, simply answer their questions to the best of your ability and keep pressing forward. If you did not get through your entire testimony, a written testimony, if supplied, can be archived in full. The hearing will likely extend into the evening due to the sheer number of bills being heard.
- Back up statistical data. Any statistical data provided is strengthened by supplying the company or agency that led the research. Make sure to cite your sources.
- I fully support efforts by the state legislature to improve our child protective services system, but I strongly oppose any legislation that does not align with best practices of child-centered care.
- The primary consideration for a child welfare agency, organization, and its employees should always be the best interests of the child – not advancing the interests or beliefs of a state contractor. HB 3859 would allow the religious beliefs of child-placing agencies to be placed above the needs of our most vulnerable children. That could jeopardize the health and well-being of children in our system.
- We know that the number one reason children remain in state care is the lack of qualified prospective foster/adoptive families. It is a lack of parents, not a lack of placement agencies. HB 3859 decreases the chances of youth placement by giving placing agencies the state’s express permission, and taxpayer dollars, to turn away prospective families who are otherwise qualified to give these children a home. HB 3859 wrongly focuses on the needs and interests of adults, and not on finding more loving families for children and youth in state care.
- HB 3859 is clearly intended to permit individuals and organizations to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBT families and children. The proposed legislation would also allow state contractors and providers to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples, as well as people of different religious faiths or denominations. This is morally wrong and legally problematic.
- In Texas alone, it is estimated that 10,600 adopted children under the age of 18 are being raised by lesbian, gay and same-sex couples. By adding discriminatory religious refusal language and turning away qualified parents, we risk keeping children in need of a loving home in foster care for a longer period of time.
- In the end, this is not about religious freedom. When children are removed from their families because of neglect or abuse, the State has an obligation to place them in homes based on the children’s needs and the prospective family’s ability to meet those needs, not on the religious beliefs of the agency hired by the State to find them homes. These children have the right to have their placement decisions made based on child welfare criteria, not religious criteria.
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