KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — When Oak Ridge Representative John Ragan woke up Sunday morning, he had about 75 emails waiting.
Some, he said, were from people upset over a bill he has filed in the Tennessee Legislature.
The proposed law would allow organizations to refuse adoption rights to potential parents if it goes against the organization's religious beliefs.
It has made national headlines because activists say it would allow discrimination, specifically against same-sex couples.
"These are loving families. They are trying to do the best they can to adopt kids who need loving families," said Sterling Field, the Knox County chair of the Tennessee Equality Project.
He said the bill does not just hurt same-sex couples, it could prevent people of different faiths or who believe in no God at all from being able to adopt a child.
"Simply adding another hurdle to these kids getting loving stable homes is just another problem," he said.
Ragan said if the bill becomes a law, it will not prevent kids from being adopted but will keep religious-based adoption agencies working in the state.
"It's actually a benefit to the state to have these agencies performing this operation, therefore it makes sense for the state to say we will protect your religious freedom and let you continue to do this," he said.
Constitutionally, an expert says the law will probably pass muster.
"The court has shown a great deal of willingness to protect religious freedom in the recent past even perhaps to the exclusion of equality," Lincoln Memorial University professor Stewart Harris said.
Ragan does not disagree that this law would allow discrimination. He said that is not a bad thing.
"Quite obviously, the religious beliefs of certain organizations are by definition discriminatory," he said.