Today, HRC praised the 40 U.S. Senators who signed a letter opposing a discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ “license to discriminate” amendment to the FY 2019 funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The amendment, which was added onto the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, would grant a “license to discriminate” in the provision of child welfare services, allowing child welfare placing agencies that receive federal government funding to turn away qualified prospective parents based on the agency’s religious beliefs. In the letter, the senators stress that they would work to block this amendment from becoming a part of a funding bill that originates in their chamber. Currently, the House bill has not been scheduled for floor debate. The Senate bill, which does not contain the provision, is expected to be considered on the floor in August.
“The 40 U.S. Senators opposing the House’s ‘license to discriminate’ amendment see it for what it is: a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ people while disregarding what is in the best interests of children,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “As Congress continues to debate this funding bill, HRC urges Congress to reject any discriminatory amendment that would target LGBTQ people and harm tens of thousands of children waiting for loving homes.”
In the letter, the Senators write: “We strongly encourage you to reject this language and instead, support federal laws and regulations barring discrimination, and protect the rights of all qualified parents who answer the call to foster and adopt children in foster care. These children deserve the welcoming and loving homes that so many parents of diverse backgrounds are yearning to provide.”
The amendment added in the House, as introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), would have a sweeping, harmful impact in child welfare services by enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other qualified parents to whom an agency has an objection. The lack of qualified prospective parents is the biggest barrier to finding homes for children in the child welfare system. Granting a federally sanctioned license to discriminate to the agencies entrusted to serve them, will undoubtedly limit the pool of prospective parents based on factors that have nothing to do with the best interest of the children. This is an unconscionable use of taxpayer dollars.
HRC recently released a report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms of efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care.
Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, due to a myriad of factors including family rejection because of their LGBTQ status. Once in care, LGBTQ youthare especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment.. This type of amendment will only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.