An amendment that would allow faith-based agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ couples looking to adopt and punish states that attempt to prevent this from occurring passed the House Appropriations Committee in early July.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), would not only prevent states from taking action against agencies that decline to provide services based on their religious beliefs but also would direct the federal government to withhold 15 percent of federal funding from any state that refuses to allow discrimination to take place.
States like New Jersey, California and Rhode Island with laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are at risk of funding cuts if the new amendment remains part of the final funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
“Republicans’ moral bankruptcy reached a sickening new low today,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) said in a release. “House Republicans chose to sacrifice the well-being of little children to push a bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda, potentially denying tens of thousands of vulnerable children the opportunity to find a loving and safe home.”
While the amendment may be new, the idea behind it is anything but. As we previously reported, religious advocates attempted to push a bill, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would protect agencies from losing state funding for only providing service to those who share their religious beliefs.
While that bill seemingly stalled in the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Resources last year, the idea found its way into the House Appropriations Committee amendment in July.
However, individual states have been supporters and critics have been fighting this out on a state level for some time. Last month, a federal court in Philadelphia said states had no right to put an organization’s religious belief ahead of the best interest of a child.
“In a first-of-its-kind ruling, U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker ruled that Catholic Social Services does not have the right to take taxpayer funds and still override the accepted child welfare placement standards because of its religious objections,” according to James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project.
“As the court said, “[Department of Human Services] and Philadelphia have a legitimate interest in ensuring that when they employ contractors to provide governmental services, the services are accessible to all Philadelphians who are qualified for the services.”
However, not all states feel the same way. As we previously reported: “Texas passed the Freedom to Serve Children Act (in 2017) which protects foster care agencies from legal retaliation for making decisions regarding a child in care based on the organization’s religious affiliation.”
This bill, which allows these agencies to refuse services to foster parents and children who do not practice similar religious beliefs, also requires agencies to refer the individual or family to another organization that can help.
While each state currently addresses this issue differently, the amendment attached to Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill would force all states to allow faith-based organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ couples looking to adopt or face severe funding cuts.
Critics of the amendment, such as the Human Rights Campaign, have called the law a “license to discriminate” and argued that it will hurt children in the child welfare system.
“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 release on their website. “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.”
In New Jersey, a state that would be at risk for funding cuts under the new law, the foster care nonprofit Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) has vocally opposed the amendment.
“This is wrong and does not have the best interest of our children at heart,” said FAFS Chief Executive Officer Corinne LeBaron. “We believe in finding safe, loving homes for our kids as quickly as possible, not discriminating based on an agency’s religious beliefs.
“We believe same-sex couples, single parents and interfaith couples make wonderful foster and adoptive homes,” LeBaron added. “We believe this because we’ve seen it time and time again. Why would you ever want to prevent a child in need from going to a good, safe home?”
Learn more about the amendment and see FAFS’ CEO issue a statement in opposition.