Today, HRC responded to news that the Trump-Pence White House has proposed a federal regulation that would strip away nondiscrimination requirements and permit all Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant recipients, notably adoption and foster care agencies, to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and in many circumstances religious minorities and women, and still receive federal funding.
“The Trump-Pence White House has proposed a horrific federal regulation that would permit discrimination across the entire spectrum of HHS programs receiving federal funding,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “This would permit discrimination against LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and women in programs related to foster care, adoption, HIV and STI prevention, youth homelessness, refugee resettlement, elder care programs and more. It is unconscionable that the Trump-Pence administration would prioritize advancing discrimination over the wellbeing of vulnerable people and expect taxpayers to foot the bill for their discriminatory policies. The Trump-Pence White House is relying on the same flawed legal reasoning they’ve used in the past to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people and other communities.”
When the proposed regulation is formally published, the American people would only have 30 days to offer public comments, an unusually short period to consider a policy that would enable widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and women that do not align with the belief system of an HHS grant recipient. Furthermore, the Trump-Pence White House has declined to enforce existing non-discrimination requirements regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and sex in programs that receive federal funding where the protection isn’t statutorily required while the proposed comment is pending.
This is the latest action since Trump and Pence took office that grants HHS recipients a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and women:
- In May of 2017, the Trump-Pence White House put out an executive order mandating the Department of Justice to work agency by agency to regulatorily create broad exemptions allowing faith-based organizations to discriminate against those who do not agree with their personal beliefs.
- In January of this year, Trump-Pence’s HHS granted a waiver from federal non-discrimination requirements to South Carolina’s Foster Care Program, which has contracted with a child welfare provider who seeks permission to refuse to serve prospective parents who do not share their religious beliefs, but who want to continue to receive federal funding to provide those services. South Carolina requested the waiver to allow federal funds to go to a child welfare agency that refused to work with Jewish and Catholic people who were otherwise eligible to support children in need.
- This continues a pattern of citing court decisions unrelated to nondiscrimination laws to justify stripping away protections for LGBTQ people and others.
In 2017, HRC 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. The report debunks the myth that having more providers is the key to higher rates of placement in homes; the bottleneck is not the number of providers, but the number of prospective parents. Where providers have ceased to provide services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws, placement rates did not decrease significantly as a result.
Further, research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. This regulation would only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.