Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Signs His Third Anti-LGBTQ+ Law Of 2022, a Bill Allowing Adoption and Foster Care Agencies to Discriminate Against LGBTQ+ Couples

by Delphine Luneau

'Gov. Ducey Has Turned His Back on His Reputation As a So-Called Moderate'

Phoenix, Arizona – Yesterday evening Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1399 into law, allowing third party child welfare agencies operating as government contractors, providing taxpayer-funded services including adoption, foster care, and family reunification, to discriminate in the provision of those services on the basis of religion. Discrimination on the basis of religion opens the door to discrimination against many people and families, including LGBTQ+ individuals and same-sex families, or any other person or family who does not conform to the religious expectations professed by the third party agency. Other states with such laws have seen litigation when, as in South Carolina, an evangelical Christian agency refused to work with Catholics.

Gov. Ducey has failed to keep his promise to be “unapologetically pro-adoption” – a commitment he made in 2015 after he changed a policy that blocked legally married same-sex couples from jointly adopting or being foster parents. Any policy that limits the pool of qualified foster and adoptive parents because of discrimination is patently anti-adoption. This is the third anti-LGBTQ+ bill that Gov. Ducey has signed this week to score political points with the extreme rightwing base at the expense of vulnerable children. Last Wednesday, he signed legislation that will prevent transgender youth from receiving some health care that may be medically necessary, as well as legislation that will prohibit transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity.

Arizona is experiencing a shortage of licensed foster homes for children in foster care: the number of households offering a foster home for Arizona children has already dropped 11% compared to last year and 33% compared to 2017. Allowing agencies to openly discriminate against would-be parents based on factors unrelated to their qualifications to parent, including their sexual orientation or gender identity, will deepen this crisis and deny more children the opportunity to grow up in a safe and welcoming environment. For more information about laws that grant licenses to discriminate in child welfare services, please visit HRC’s 2020 publication on the subject here.

Human Rights Campaign Arizona State Director Bridget Sharpe issued the following statement in reaction to Gov. Ducey signing SB 1399 into law:

“Gov. Ducey has turned his back on his reputation as a so-called moderate – he has now signed three bills that attack the LGBTQ+ community and have particular impact on LGBTQ+ youth. Whether it is by attacking transgender kids playing sports, transgender kids trying to access medical care, or LGBTQ+ youth who are overrepresented in the child welfare system, Gov. Ducey has betrayed those children at every turn. Every child should have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment. That’s why it’s so outrageous that Gov. Ducey signed legislation that will make it harder to place at-need children with qualified, thoroughly-vetted parents who can provide the support they need. He’s making it harder for kids – including LGBTQ+ kids – to find homes by allowing government contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion when performing taxpayer-funded services. Who pays the price? For the third time in a week – it is Arizona’s already vulnerable children. He shows no shame.”

Last month, the Human Rights Campaign Arizona and more than a dozen other organizations supporting the wellbeing of children and families in Arizona and nationally, wrote a letter to Arizona House of Representatives Members voicing their strong opposition to the bill. The organizations emphasized how similar legislation in other states resulted in agencies turning away potential parents.

“In states like Tennessee and South Carolina that have, through laws or executive orders like SB1399, permitted agencies to use religious criteria, Jewish, Catholic, Unitarian, and same-sex married couples have been turned away because they don’t meet a particular agency’s religious litmus test,” the letter states.

The letter also notes that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care and Arizona needs to increase affirming family placements. For more information on laws like this one that create a license to discriminate in child welfare services, please see HRC’s 2020 publication on the subject here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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