The Aderholt Amendment Harms Vulnerable Children

Last Wednesday, a committee passed the so-called Aderholt Amendment to an appropriations bill that creates a federal license to discriminate for child welfare providers. As detailed in a brief released yesterday by MAP, Lambda Legal, and the Every Child Deserves a Family coalition, if passed, this bill would harm more than 395,000 children in the child welfare system. First, it would allow agencies to use a religious litmus test to determine which children and families to serve. It would also reduce the pool of qualified foster and adoptive families, resulting in negative outcomes for children in care. Finally, it would penalize states that enforce nondiscrimination laws or policies with a potential cumulative cut of $1.04 billion in child welfare funding to states, leaving these states with even fewer resources to care for the children in their care.

Learn more in this brief and then take action.

The Courts: What’s at Stake

As we await confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, the balance of the Court is weighing heavy on our minds. The cases that the Court could consider have sky-high stakes for many communities because they touch nearly all areas of our lives, from healthcare and employment to voting and the environment.

For LGBT families, there are several cases that the Court could consider in the coming terms that could profoundly undermine critical legal protections. This new article from the Daily Beast summarizes many of these cases, which include issues of employee benefits for same-sex spouses and employment protections for LGBT workers.

Perhaps the most alarming are the number of cases focused on religious exemptions and the extent to which individuals, businesses, and even government employees can be exempted from the law—including laws that protect people from discrimination. A growing, coordinated effort to insert religious exemptions into countless areas of law pose a substantial threat not only to LGBT families and their safety and wellbeing, but to women, people of color, people of minority faiths, people with disabilities, and many more. The extent to which these laws impact the lives of millions of people as they go to the doctor, go to restaurants and movie theaters, and even start families is disturbing.

Today, a federal district court in Michigan is hearing arguments in a case brought by the ACLU challenging the state’s policy of allowing Christian agencies receiving taxpayer dollars to care for children in state care to deny loving, qualified families because of who they are. The stakes in this case are also extremely high. Last year, MAP released a new ad “Kids Pay the Price” showing the harms of laws like these when child welfare agencies are allowed to put their own religious beliefs before the best interest of children.

Just yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Health and Human Services funding bill that would mirror the so-called Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, a federal version of these license-to-discriminate bills we’re seeing in states. The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration later this summer.

And, last week, in a letter to faith leaders, the governor of South Carolina defended asking for a waiver from federal nondiscrimination requirements to permit state- and federally-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate. Miracle Hill, an South Carolina evangelical adoption and foster agency that provides services to children in state care, recently turned away an otherwise qualified Jewish couple because they failed to meet the agency’s religious standard. In addition, last week governor signed legislation making this type of discrimination legal throughout the state. Ten states now permit child placing agencies to make decisions about who can foster or adopt a child in the care of the state based–not on the best interests of a child – but rather based on a religious litmus test.

If these cases–and all other cases focused on the ability of individuals, business, government employees, and others to disregard nondiscrimination laws–were to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the question remains how Judge Kavanaugh would rule.

One thing is clear, we can’t do it alone. Now, more than ever, we need to join together and work to protect our communities from discrimination. Sign up for updates from MAP to learn more about how to take action.

EXCLUSIVE: USA Today Article Sheds Light on Attempts to Undermine Marriage Equality

The threats posed to children by the recent and coordinated efforts to undermine marriage equality are highlighted in a recent exclusive from USA Today.

The story outlines the two overarching efforts to scale back the protections afforded to same-sex couples, plain refusals by some government officials, state legislators, and courts to fully recognize the marriages of same-sex couples and their relationship with their children; and, refusals by individuals, businesses, government contractors, and even government employees claiming they have a religiously-based right to discriminate against LGBT people, including the children of LGBT people. These license to discriminate efforts are reflected in legislation, court cases, and agency guidance around the country.

The article follows two same-sex couples that were trying to start new families through adoption, but were denied a placement because of state laws that allow child welfare agencies to discriminate against prospective families as long as they cite a religious or moral objection.

Unfortunately, these stories reflect a disturbing trend in states across the country towards religiously-based service refusals that put children at risk. Just this year, two states—Oklahoma and Kansas—have passed laws granting child welfare agencies a license to discriminate against prospective parents, leaving the nation’s most vulnerable children with fewer prospective parents.

Read more about this report in an exclusive from USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/06/04/same-sex-marriage-ruling-undermined-gay-parents/650112002/

 

Two states pass laws that put agencies’ beliefs over best interests of children

Imagine an adoption agency keeping a child in a group home despite having a qualified and loving relative willing to adopt them simply because that relative is gay. Now imagine a counselor refusing to offer therapy to a transgender teen in care. Or a child welfare agency turning away a loving, qualified Jewish couple because they are Jewish?

Sound alarmist? It happened in South Carolina and the governor responded by putting the agency’s beliefs over the best interests of vulnerable children the agency. And, governors in two states (Oklahoma and Kansas) just signed laws allowing this to happen. These bills are the first anti-LGBT bills signed this legislative session, and are part of a greater trend to exploit vulnerable children in need of loving homes for political gain.

The reality is that these agencies are receiving taxpayer dollars while continuing to discriminate against children and families. Across the country, nine states have passed these license to discriminate laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child.

These laws can hurt kids. Laws like these mean:

  • An agency could refuse to place a child with qualified parents in a loving, forever home, simply because those parents don’t meet the religious litmus test of the agency.
  • An agency could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an extended family member like a gay uncle or a lesbian grandparent.
  • An agency could refuse to place LGBT youth with accepting parents, but could instead place them with parents who intend to force them into harmful conversion therapy.
  • An agency could decide to keep a child in a government group home rather than place them with a loving, qualified couple who don’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.

In September 2017, MAP authored a report Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children which found that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.

MAP is working with advocates on the ground to defeat these bills with adsstrategic, research-based messaging guidance and in-depth policy resources. For more information about MAP’s work to protect children from these dangerous bills, visit www.lgbtmap.org/adoption

Child welfare agencies should put kids first, always. But these kinds of harmful laws give child services workers a license to discriminate and deny children the loving, forever homes they need.

Fighting to Protect Kids in Care

Imagine an adoption agency keeping a child in a group home despite having a qualified and loving relative willing to adopt them simply because that relative is gay. Now imagine a counselor refusing to offer therapy to a transgender teen in care. Or a child welfare turning away a loving, qualified Jewish couple because they are Jewish?

Sound alarmist? It happened in South Carolina and the governor responded by protecting the agency.

Now imagine that these agencies are receiving taxpayer dollars while continuing to discriminate against children and families. Across the country, seven states have passed discriminatory and harmful laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child. These laws create a license to discriminate and allow agencies to flatly refuse to consider well-qualified prospective families for child placement—and still receive government funding.

Three states passed these laws last year, and we’ve seen several states consider this type of legislation in 2018. These laws can hurt kids. Laws like these mean:

  • An agency could refuse to place a child with qualified parents in a loving, forever home, simply because those parents are gay or lesbian.
  • An agency could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an extended family member like a gay uncle or a lesbian grandparent.
  • An agency could refuse to place LGBT youth with accepting parents, but could instead place them with parents who intend to force them into harmful conversion therapy.
  • An agency could decide to keep a child in a government group home rather than place them with a loving, qualified couple who don’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.

In September 2017, MAP authored a report Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children which found that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.

Earlier this month, an adoption discrimination bill in Georgia was stalled, however, adoption discrimination bills in Kansas and Oklahoma continue to advance, and we’re watching these closely.

MAP is working with advocates on the ground to defeat these bills with ads, strategic, research-based messaging guidance and in-depth policy resources. For more information about MAP’s work to protect children from these dangerous bills, visit www.lgbtmap.org/adoption

Child welfare agencies should put kids first, always. But these kinds of harmful laws give child services workers a license to discriminate and deny children the loving, forever homes they need.