The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has attached an amendment to a government funding bill that allows child welfare agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples based on the agency's religious beliefs.
The amendment, introduced by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), was added to a funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. It passed 29-23, along party lines, with U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) the only Republican to vote against the amendment.
The Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee tweeted their displeasure at the amendment's passage.
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
If the amendment is not removed before the funding bill is passed by the full House of Representatives, child placement agencies will be allowed a “license to discriminate” based on moral or religious beliefs.
This would not solely affect LGBTQ couples, but heterosexual couples and single parents who could be discriminated against based on their religion, disability, political beliefs, whether they've ever been divorced, or any other characteristic or trait that an agency employee could deem “objectionable.”
The committee's approval of the amendment mimics actions taken by Republican legislators in other states to allow child placement agencies to discriminate, including South Carolina, where lawmakers inserted an almost identical provision into a government appropriations bill.
The governors of Oklahoma and Kansas have also recently signed laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to refuse prospective parents based on any number of characteristics, so long as they cite religious objections to justify their rejection.
Opponents of the amendment are calling on members of Congress to cut the amendment, noting that it prioritizes the whims of agency employees over what is best for children in the foster care system. They say that by placing additional barriers to prevent certain types of prospective parents from being able to adopt or foster children, the amendment limits the pool of qualified parents. Other opponents oppose the idea of allowing agencies to continue to receive taxpayer dollars while discriminating against other Americans.
“Any member of Congress who supports this amendment is clearly stating that it is more important to them to discriminate than it is to find loving homes for children in need,” David Stacy, the director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “Congress should be focusing on ways to help children in the child welfare system find homes rather than creating needless obstacles for prospective parents, effectively shrinking the pool of qualified folks who want to provide children with a loving home.”
Others note that this type of discrimination underscores the lack of federal protections for LGBTQ Americans, who will be the hardest hit by this type of religious exemption.
“Taxpayer dollars should never be used to promote discrimination against any American, LGBTQ or otherwise,” Kasey Suffredini, the president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “It's shocking to see some lawmakers willing to hurt not only LGBTQ Americans, but vulnerable children waiting for forever homes. This is just the latest example that discrimination against LGBTQ Americans is real, urgent, and a detriment to all Americans — and should be cured by federal, comprehensive protections as soon as possible.”
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