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House says adoption of LGBTQ kids violates HHS’ “sincerely held religious beliefs or convictions”

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Not all LGBTQ children are as accepted by potential parents as the child of these two. (Wikimedia Commons)

The House Appropriations Committee has passed an amendment that better enables taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against queer and transgender families. If it ends up becoming law, the amendment stands to harm an estimated 100,000 children in the U.S. foster system by making it harder for them to be placed with a permanent family.  

The amendment, which has been attached to a funding bill for the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, aims to cut funding to states that penalize adoption agencies for refusing to place children with LGBTQ families or in other homes that conflict with the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs or convictions.” If the amendment stays in the bill, 15 percent of federal adoption funding would be cut from states and localities that don’t permit adoption agencies to discriminate. In addition to queer and trans individuals, other potential parents—including interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one individual has previously been divorced, etc.—would also be affected.  

“Any Member of Congress who supports this amendment is clearly stating that it is more important to them to discriminate than it is to find loving homes for children in need,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “Congress should be focusing on ways to help children in the child welfare system find homes rather than creating needless obstacles for prospective parents, effectively shrinking the pool of qualified folks who want to provide children with a loving home.”  

According to the Movement Advancement Project, an independent think tank, 10 states in the country already permit licensed child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBT people and other potential parents by refusing to place children in such families. These states allow agencies to refuse to provide services to these families. In five states, law or policy expressly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Three states, plus the District of Columbia, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity.  

As detailed in a 2017 report by the Human Rights Campaign, “license to discriminate” laws and policies essentially compel taxpayers to fund discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and other potential parents.  

“Religious organizations who engage in child welfare work are entitled to their religious viewpoints, and the state cannot and should not be legislating on matters of faith,” the campaign’s report asserts. “However, when engaged in a taxpayer-funded activity, such as when the state awards a contract to care for children who are wards of the state in a foster care or preadoptive setting, every state contractor should be required to do the job without picking and choosing to whom they provide services they have been paid by the government to deliver.”  

If the amendment stays in the final draft of the bill, it will not only affect prospective LGBTQ parents, but also LGBTQ children, who are disproportionately represented in the foster care system. Queer and trans youth also already experience a higher total number of placements than their straight and cis peers, likely as a result of the non-affirming nature of some foster placements.  

“I was told that foster families didn’t want a gay kid in their home,” explained Kristopher Sharp, who spent eight years in foster care, when he was interviewed for a separate report published by the Human Rights Campaign. “So I grew up in group homes and residential centers where I was abused sexually, physically, and emotionally.”

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