On Wednesday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved its 2019 Fiscal Year spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which included a number of amendments related to the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. But, House Republicans also advanced an amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), that will allow religious taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to turn away LGBTQ families.
According to a news release, the Robert Aderholt amendment "prohibits discrimination against a child welfare service provider based on the provider’s religious or moral beliefs."
Not only would it allow adoption agencies to turn away LGBTQ parents, but it would also penalize federal and state governments that try to fight against these agencies — it would require the Department of Health and Human Service to withhold 15 percent of federal funds for child welfare services from these governments.
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The Robert Aderholt amendment, which opponents have dubbed "License to Discriminate," passed 29-23. All House Appropriations Committee Democrats voted against it, and all but one Republican — Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) — voted for it.
"This is public dollars. These are our children who need homes," Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), said in a statement. "We are fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. The problem is not discrimination. The problem is we need children to find forever homes…this bill exacerbates it."
The Committee adopted, on a 29-23 vote, the @HouseGOP amendment to give child welfare providers a #LicenseToDiscriminate against LGBT families who want to foster or adopt. All @AppropsDems opposed the amendment.— House Appropriations Dems (@AppropsDems) July 11, 2018
Robert Aderholt amendment
There are reportedly two million LGBTQ Americans seeking to adopt. Many argue that, if the Robert Aderholt amendment isn’t removed before the final funding bill is passed by the full House, it would further exacerbate the issue.
Same-sex couples are 6 times more likely to foster children and 4 times more likely to adopt than different-sex couples. It is not in a child’s best interest to deny them loving parents simply because those parents are LGBT #AderholtAmendment #LicenseToDiscriminate— LGBT Caucus (@LGBTEqCaucus) July 12, 2018
Many, like the Human Rights Campaign, also argue that the amendment would lead to further discrimination of LGBTQ youth (who are currently over-represented in the foster care system).
And, as Think Progress points out, the Robert Aderholt amendment "wouldn’t just affect LGBTQ families, but also unmarried heterosexual couples, single parents, and others families that don’t live up to these agencies religious standards."
However, Aderholt argues that his amendment is beneficial for children in need of homes: "As co-chairman of the House Coalition on Adoption, my goal was straightforward: to encourage states to include all experienced and licensed child welfare agencies so that children are placed in caring, loving homes where they can thrive. We need more support for these families and children in crisis, not less."
Aderholt later tweeted that, "As a Christian and a father, I am proud to have passed this amendment."
License to Discriminate
Nine states already have similar License to Discriminate laws permitting taxpayer-funded agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ youth and families based on religious beliefs. According to Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, this list includes: Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
"In recent years, a growing number of states have passed laws that give child welfare agencies a #LicenseToDiscriminate against LGBT people, single-parents, people with disabilities and others who do not match the agency's religious preferences," tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is currently involved in a lawsuit with Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services and the Children's Services Agency of Michigan for turning away same-sex couples.
In recent years, a growing number of states have passed laws that give child welfare agencies a #LicenseToDiscriminate against LGBT people, single-parents, people with disabilities, and others who do not match the agency's religious preferences.— ACLU (@ACLU) July 12, 2018
If you want to read more about one of the couples that prompted this lawsuit, Kristy and Dana Dumont, an essay from their perspective on Broadly is a good start (and, for more on the ACLU and its advocacy for LGBTQ parents seeking adoption, click through to the union's website).
"What hurts us most is the idea that all of those kids—some 13,000 in Michigan, and hundreds of thousands across the nation—might never get a loving home because of policies like this," writes the Dumonts. "These kids deserve to grow up in loving, safe, and happy households, and they’ve had their stable, futures compromised by politicians imposing their own personal beliefs onto others."
For LGBTQ-friendly adoption and foster care agencies, click through to the Human Rights Campaign site.