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.

ICYMI: Fast Company Opinion piece calls on businesses to be Open to All

Earlier this month, Fast Company published an opinion piece “Masterpiece Cakeshop” means inclusive companies have more work to do. Authored by MAP’s Director of Communications and Public Education Calla Rongerude, the piece is a strong call to action for inclusive businesses to reject discrimination and declare that they are open to all.  

On June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case involved a bakery that refused service to a same-sex couple claiming it should be exempt from the state’s nondiscrimination law due to the religious beliefs of its owner. While the decision reversed the original ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, it did so on grounds that were unique to the case and applies only to Masterpiece Cakeshop. However, the ruling did NOT broadly allow businesses to discriminate.

As the Open to All campaign manager writes: “inclusive businesses shouldn’t rest easy. Instead, every company should take yesterday’s [Masterpiece] decision as an urgent call to action, declaring their doors open for business–and closed to the misguided notion that faith can or should nullify civil rights in America.”

Open to All is nationwide public engagement campaign to build understanding and discussion about the importance of our nation’s nondiscrimination laws—and the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.

The coalition has made it easy for public-serving businesses to act. They have launched an Open to All Business Pledge—by signing the pledge and displaying the Open to All sign in a store window, business owners can commit to supporting nondiscrimination protections and send a powerful message that their business is open to all.

Click here to sign the Open to All business pledge: http://opentoall.com/business-pledge

Click here to read the opinion piece in Fast Company: https://www.fastcompany.com/40581046/masterpiece-cakeshop-means-inclusive-companies-have-more-work-to-do

No Place to Call Home: New Ad Shows Real Dangers to LGBT Elders

It’s an emotional time for any family when an aging family member has to move into a nursing home or care facility. For many LGBT older people and their families, the emotions can include fear of being turned away from a facility simply because of who they are. At a time when people need comfort and reassurance, some are denied basic dignity, decency, and respect.

Today, MAP, SAGE, and the Open to All coalition released a new ad, Nursing Home, featuring an older gay man and his family on the first day he moves into an assisted living facility. When the director of the facility learns the man is gay, the man is not allowed to move in. The ad is the latest in a series from MAP that showcase the harms of “religious exemption” laws that allow anti-LGBT discrimination. It’s a hard-hitting reminder of what’s at stake when our nation’s nondiscrimination laws come under fire and when opponents of LGBT equality try to undermine the very foundation of U.S. civil rights laws.

It’s shocking to realize that in a majority of states, LGBT people are not protected against discrimination in housing, employment, or public places like restaurants, hotels, or theaters.

Perhaps even more disturbing is what opponents of LGBT equality are doing to make sure LGBT people have even fewer protections. Right now, we are seeing a coordinated, nationwide effort to file lawsuits and pass laws and policies that would allow individuals, businesses, and even government contractors to use religion as the basis for discriminating against people of color, women, people of minority faiths, and LGBT people, including LGBT elders.

Read more in this opinion piece in The Advocate

While most care providers and businesses will do the right thing when it comes to serving their clients, some will only do so when required by law. In last week’s Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the justices affirmed that states can take steps to protect LGBT people from discrimination, and that religious objections should not be used to deny equal access to goods and services for all Americans. But today, policymakers in Washington and the states are working to pass laws that would increase anti-LGBT discrimination. Among many other negative impacts, these religious exemption laws would allow providers to deny critical health care services and vital social supports to LGBT older adults simply because of who they are.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration established the “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to protect medical providers who deny important care to patients based on religious or moral beliefs. And in the past year alone, lawmakers in 9 states have tried to pass laws allowing anti-LGBT discrimination because of religion.

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of American society, but anti-LGBT forces are using it like a crowbar to break open the door to more discrimination against people because of who they are—not just LGBT people, but anyone that a person, business, or institution finds “objectionable”. In the face of these egregious attempts to strip away nondiscrimination protections and leave our most vulnerable community members at risk, NOW is the time for businesses, care providers, and others to stand up and say their doors are open to everyone and they will not discriminate.

To learn more about how businesses can pledge to be open to all, visit www.OpentoAll.com/business-pledge.

 

So, What Can We Do? New Ad Calls on Supporters to Join the Campaign!

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and many folks are wondering: what can we do?

While the Court’s decision affirms the importance of non-discrimination laws, it does not address the discrimination that millions of Americans still face. In more than half the country, our state laws do not explicitly protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in stores and restaurants, in the workplace, or in housing.

A new ad released today from MAP and the Open to All coalition depicts how hurtful and demeaning it can be to be turned away or refused service by a business simply because of who you are. The ad calls on supporters to join the Open to All campaign in support of nondiscrimination protections for all.

So how can you help?

Ask local businesses in your community to take the Open to All business pledge! It’s easy: businesses go to www.OpenToAll.com/business-pledge and agree to not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The Open to All coalition is asking supporters to sign the petition and call on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would update our laws to provide all people with full protection from discrimination.

It’s time for our nation’s laws to catch up to our nation’s values and protect all Americans from discrimination, so that no one can be fired from their job, denied a place to live, or turned away from a business simply because of who they are.

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/

 

Kids are harmed as anti-LGBT opponents fight to undermine marriage equality

This blog was written as part of the LGBTQ Families Day

Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, and, in doing so, married same-sex couples–and the estimated 300,000 children they are raising—gained important legal protections and recognition. However, in the years since, there has been a coordinated effort in the form of stigma, discrimination, and systematic attempts to undermine marriage equality, jeopardizing the safety and security of children. Most recently, two states passed laws that restrict fostering and adoption placements for LGBT parents, reflecting a disturbing trend in states across the country towards religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws, putting children at risk.

Out today, MAP’s newest report, Putting Children at Risk: How Efforts to Undermine Marriage Equality Harm Children, was co-authored with Family Equality Council. The report shows how these coordinated efforts pose a profound threat to the children in LGBT families.

One of the primary efforts that is gaining traction involves individuals, businesses, government contractors, and even government employees claiming they have a right to discriminate against LGBT people, including the children of LGBT people. These license to discriminate efforts, reflected in legislation, court cases, and agency guidance around the country, attempt to allow discrimination by government officials, child welfare providers, healthcare providers, and even private business owners. This has an especially harmful impact on both existing LGBT families and LGBT parents seeking to adopt or start a family.

Just this year, two states—Oklahoma and Kansas—have passed laws allowing child welfare agencies to discriminate against prospective families, leaving the nation’s most vulnerable children with fewer prospective parents.

The report also highlights the states that have refused to fully recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, as well as the legal ties between those parents and their children, including failing to issue accurate birth certificates to children born to same-sex couples or denying recognition to a same-sex parent as a parent in a custody dispute. By refusing to recognize these marriages, opponents of LGBT equality are actively trying to deny same-sex couples the rights and protections that flow from marriage, making it harder for LGBT parents to ensure their children get the care and security they need.

Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. This case has the potential to undo decades of nondiscrimination laws by allowing businesses to pick and choose which customers to serve. For children raised by LGBT parents, in particular, the stakes are high. A same-sex couple could be refused pregnancy and birth healthcare services, a child with two mothers could be denied entrance to their local preschool, a child could be refused critical medical treatment because she was denied an accurate birth certificate listing both parents, or a qualified, loving same-sex couple could be rejected from fostering a child in need.

These aren’t hypotheticals, unfortunately. As detailed in the report, in states without nondiscrimination laws and in states where legislatures have pushed license to discriminate legislation, children are harmed.

All children deserve the right to a stable, secure family. Efforts to undermine marriage equality jeopardize the security and safety of children raised by same-sex couples.

Third Circuit hears a case highlighting how transgender students are harassed and singled out in schools

Tomorrow, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals will hear an important case about whether transgender students can safely attend school.

The case, Doe v. Boyertown, was brought by a student under the pseudonym Joel Doe. Doe attends the Boyertown Area School District in Pennsylvania, which allows transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity. Doe is arguing that his school should be required to ban transgender male students from using the same school facilities—like restrooms and locker rooms—as other male students.

Schools are well-equipped to manage the different needs of students in these settings—and they’ve shown they can provide additional privacy for students who want it, while also ensuring that transgender students can access facilities consistent with their gender identity. Excluding transgender students from school facilities that match their gender identity is humiliating, discriminatory, and adds to the bullying and mistreatment that far too many transgender students already face. If transgender students cannot safely access a restroom, they cannot safely attend school.

According to GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, transgender students who experience exclusion and discrimination are more likely to miss school than other students. The survey also showed that 75% of transgender students felt unsafe at school, and 70% report avoiding bathrooms at school. MAP’s 2017 report, Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities, further illustrates the significant hostility, discrimination, and bullying that transgender youth face in schools around the country. It also highlights the lack of explicit policy protections for transgender students in most states. (For more on the state of LGBT protections in schools around the country, see MAP’s Safe Schools Laws Equality Map.)

School policies should protect students from bullying and isolation; they shouldn’t promote it. And, a growing number of courts agree that Title IX’s ban on sex-based discrimination in education means that transgender students’ rights must also be protected. Specifically, transgender students must be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity.

Transgender students, like other students—and like all of us—care about safety and privacy in places like restrooms and locker rooms. Every student also deserves a fair chance to succeed in school and prepare for their future—including students who are transgender.

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.

NEW REPORT: State Preemption and the Threat to Progress and Equality

North Carolina’s HB2 was a terrible bill for many reasons. Not only did it ban transgender people from accessing restrooms, it also prevented local cities from (1) protecting their residents from discrimination and (2) from raising the local minimum wage. How?

The state legislature reversed a local law protecting LGBT people and prevented any other city in the state from protecting LGBT people or raising the minimum wage, through a tactic called “preemption.” This tactic is part of an increasingly common strategy by state legislatures throughout the country to limit local progress on a wide range of issues, from the minimum wage and paid leave to pro-immigrant policies and LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. Although the reasoning behind current state preemption efforts can vary, the impact remains the same: tying the hands of local lawmakers and preventing them from providing the protections they know match their residents’ values and are needed in their communities.

MAP’s latest report, The Power of State Preemption: Preventing Progress and Threatening Equality, shows the spread and impact of these efforts, both across the country and across a wide range of issues including LGBT equality. This report was developed in partnership with A Better BalanceEquality Federation, Family Values @ Work, and the Local Solutions Support Center.

In the absence of state leadership to protect LGBT people from discrimination, local ordinances have been instrumental stepping stones toward statewide nondiscrimination protections. Yet, anti-LGBT activists have leveraged preemption efforts to target LGBT equality in at least two key ways:  hindering local nondiscrimination ordinances (often by targeting transgender people and restricting restroom access), and preventing cities from banning harmful conversion therapy practices used against LGBT youth.

 

However, state preemption isn’t only an LGBT issue. More than 20 states have preemption laws that prevent cities from increasing their local minimum wage or from guaranteeing local workers paid sick leave. Nine states forbid cities from passing sanctuary city ordinances or taking other similar measures to protect their immigrant residents–and in 2017 alone, 33 more states considered similar bills preventing pro-immigrant policies. When preemption is used in this way–to set a maximum rather than minimum level of protections–there are drastic consequences for cities and states alike, including:

  • Leaving residents open to discrimination
  • Placing special interests and profits over local residents
  • Hurting workers, and especially low-income communities
  • Limiting cities’ abilities to create diverse, thriving local economics
  • Hamstringing local officials’ ability to do what is right for their cities