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.
In 2004, nearly 23,000 children were adopted from foreign countries. Since then, many of these countries, including Russia and Ethiopia, have put an end to international adoptions. The result is just 5,400 children have been adopted from places outside the United States in 2016. With fewer international children available, a rise in adoptions from foster care throughout the United States seemed imminent.
However, while the number of children in care across the country rose by more than 10 percent between 2012 and 2016, including a 15 percent increase in children waiting to be adopted, the adoption rate failed to keep pace. What makes these statistics more troubling is that nearly half of those waiting to be adopted are legally free.
While the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage and gave same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community continues to face challenges that heterosexual families do not. Among the most contested issues is whether foster care agencies can deny placing children based on the foster parents’ sexual orientation.
National LGBT Adoption Laws
Two opposing bills have been sent to Congress to determine whether faith-based foster care agencies are required to place children with families who don’t share their religious beliefs. LGBT rights advocates have proposed the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. It would prevent agencies receiving federal funding from denying foster care placements or adoption to members of the LGBT community and allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold Title IV funding to states that don’t comply. The other bill in Congress proposed by religious advocates, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, would protect agencies from losing state funding for only providing service to those who share their religious beliefs.
Georgia’s Senate recently passed the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act (Senate Bill (SB)375), which would permit the state’s foster care and adoption agencies to refuse LGBTQ parents and others who do not share the agencies’ religious beliefs. As reported in Newsweek, the state Senate passed the bill on Friday, February 23.
The implications of this Act would reach deeper than many might think, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ rights organization. Not only would it allow agencies to refuse adoption to LGBTQ parents but also to interfaith couples, single parents and those who have been divorced. It would also impact services offered to LGBTQ youth in care.
In a statement, Marty Rouse, National Field Director of the Human Rights Campaign said, “It’s unfortunate that leaders are focusing on this bill instead of concrete ways to improve the child welfare system in Georgia. We ask the Georgia House of Representatives to reject this bill.”
While detractors, including GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, call the Act an imposition of religious values for the purpose of discrimination, others feel the Act will not impact the LGBTQ community in the ways it fears. Georgia Senator William Logan has stated that prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents will be able to go through other non-faith based agencies, adding that such arrangements would allow agencies tied to religion the ability “…to exercise their fundamental right to practice their faith.”
Georgia is a stark contrast to New Jersey, where LGBTQ families are welcomed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. To learn more about National LGBT Adoption Laws, click here.