On any given day, Michael Quinton's household is bustling with activity. He gets his two kids up for school, makes sure their homework is finished and feeds them breakfast.

Sometimes, he has a foster kid or two in the mix as well.

"I go through the same things [any parent] does," Michael Quinton told 10News. "We celebrate the things they exceed in and we fight through obstacles."

On Friday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed House Bill 0836 into law. It provides protection for privately licensed adoption agencies with "written religious or moral convictions" wishing to deny adoptions on those grounds. 

That means private agencies could refuse to place children in Michael Quinton's home because he's openly gay. 

"For me, every child deserves permanency. Every child deserves a loving home," Quinton said. "They just want someone to love them and be with them for their lifetime."

Michael Quinton and family
Michael Quinton and his two sons, Blake and Clayton, pose for a picture.
Submitted

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He adopted his two sons, Blake and Clayton, in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Quinton has also fostered multiple teenagers in the past year.  

"When it comes down to love and security, these kids don't care if it's traditional or non traditional," Quinton said. "They could not care less that I was a gay man helping them out for a moment."

A 16-year-old he fostered left behind a letter Quinton still treasures. It thanked Quinton for being "an awesome foster dad" and teaching him important life lessons.

"I appreciate you big time and helping me through all of my hard times," the teenager wrote. "I really do love you guys like my own family."

Quinton said that letter showed him what really mattered to that kid: a place he could call home and person who loved him.

Foster care letter
A letter from a 16-year-old Michael Quinton fostered.
Grace King

"If your heart thinks my family is different than yours, come and break bread with us, have dinner with us, spend a day with us," Quinton said. "If we can help any child, it shouldn't matter what agency they're in, what their background is or what their beliefs are because at the end of the day, love is love."

Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups are weighing their options. Billy Bailey, an activist in Sevier County, said he hopes the legislation will be reversed. 

"It's not okay," Bailey said. "We have a clear opportunity where we can make change and we have to."

Neither of the bills sponsors were available for an interview on Friday. 

State Sen. Paul Rose (R-Tipton) said in a statement he is pleased "faith-based child placement agencies will soon have an added layer of protection to continue the work they have done for decades without fear they will be forced out of business."

Sen. Rose said faith-based agencies make up about 12 to 15 percent of placement agencies.

In Michigan, a similar measure was challenged in court. It was initially reversed in March of 2019, but a federal judge eventually ruled it was not discriminatory last fall.

Eight other states have similar measures.