43 U.S. Senators Speak Out in Opposition to HHS Adoption Discrimination; Wyden Describes “Victims of that Discrimination” at Hearing with HHS Sec. Azar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President’s budget today, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) denounced the Trump administration’s discriminatory actions in foster care and adoption, stating:

The first victims of that discrimination will be people who want to step up and provide safe and loving homes for foster kids. People who are Jewish, who are Catholic, who are Muslim, who choose to practice no religion, LGBTQ Americans, potentially others. The next victims will be vulnerable youngsters, since this policy would limit the number of foster homes available to them. There are also alarming questions about what this would mean for Jewish kids and Catholic kids who wind up in settings that are hostile to their faiths. What would it mean for LGBTQ kids, or children who are struggling with their sexual orientation?

His comments, directed to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, follow the release yesterday of a letter from 43 Senators to Azar. The letter strongly criticizes a waiver HHS issued on January 23, 2019 to South Carolina to allow Miracle Hill Ministries, a federally-funded foster care agency, to turn away Jewish, Catholic, and other non-born again Protestant applicants to be foster parents, mentors, and volunteers. The letter also urges HHS to revoke the waiver, and follows a similar letter signed by 95 members of the House of Representatives.

“We greatly appreciate the over 150 members of Congress who have publicly rebuked and demanded revocation of the Trump administration’s actions to provide a license to discriminate to foster care and adoption providers,” said Julie Kruse, director of federal policy at Family Equality Council. “They stand with the two-thirds of Americans – including a majority of both Republicans and evangelical Christians – who oppose discrimination in taxpayer-funded adoption services. Sadly, the victims of the administration’s discriminatory actions are America’s 443,000 foster youth, including the 123,000 waiting to be adopted.”

The letter was released two days after the Trump administration added an unfunded line item to its proposed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget entitled “Protect the religious liberty of child welfare providers.” The administration also included language in its HHS Budget in Brief that the agency’s Office of Civil Rights will act on proposed rulemaking “to ensure protection of the conscience and religious freedom rights of individuals and entities working in health care and human services.” Release of the budget follows President Trump’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 7 in support of continuing federal funding to an agency that turns away same-sex couples applying to be foster and adoptive parents in violation of HHS’ nondiscrimination policies.

“The President’s budget line item does not in itself authorize discrimination against qualified foster and adoptive parents based on religion contrary to HHS’ own regulations.” said Cortney Jones, executive director of Voice for Adoption. “However, the budget language sends a dangerous signal to foster care and adoption agencies that they can turn away qualified parents and deny foster children loving homes. As a person with lived experience in foster care, it is especially alarming that the 19% of foster youth who are LGBTQ and religious minority children may be denied placements that affirm and support their identities. By prioritizing agencies’ beliefs over the needs of children, this discrimination defies the cardinal rule of child welfare – that providers must act in the best interests of the child.”

Family Equality Council joins faith, child welfare and LGBTQ organizational members of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign in applauding members of Congress for speaking out in opposition to the Trump administration’s steps to allow taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

About Family Equality Council

Family Equality Council advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality Council believes every LGBTQ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live. Learn more at familyequality.org

###

Media Contact:
Ed Harris, Chief Communications Officer, Family Equality Council
646-880-3005 x117  / eharris@familyequality.org