An amendment to a federal appropriations bill that would have allowed child placement agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples has been removed, marking a major victory for LGBTQ and child welfare advocates.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to a conference report — ironing out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the government funding bill — from which the potentially harmful amendment was excised.
The so-called “Aderholt amendment,” introduced by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), was passed on a nearly-party-line vote in July, with U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) being the only Republican to vote against it.
Had the amendment stayed intact, it would have allowed adoption and foster care agencies — even those that accept taxpayer dollars — to claim a religious objection to placing children with same-sex couples, as well as heterosexual couples and single parents who could potentially be discriminated against based on a number of characteristics, including their religion, disability, political beliefs, or marital history.
Similar “conscience clause exemptions,” as they are typically known, have been passed in nine states, including, most recently, Oklahoma and Kansas, and were inserted into a state government appropriations bill by South Carolina lawmakers.
“I was proud to fight to ensure that the Aderholt amendment — which would have inserted bigotry and discrimination into our foster care and adoption systems — was removed from this year’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommitte, said in a statement.
“Children deserve to live in safe, happy, and healthy permanent homes, and their best interests should always be placed first. No qualified adoptive and foster care parent should be discriminated against, period.”
Several pro-LBGTQ organizations, which had lobbied members of Congress to remove the amendment from the final conference report as part of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, praised this week’s development.
“Over 300 child welfare, civil rights and faith organizations under the umbrella of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign successfully mobilized to press Congress to say no to depriving foster children of loving homes and needed services,” Denise Brogan-Kator, the chief policy officer for Family Equality Council. “The Aderholt amendment had broken the cardinal rule of child welfare — that the needs of children should come first.”
“Fortunately, Congress has rejected this harmful effort to discriminate against LGBTQ people while disregarding what is in the best interests of children,” David Stacy, the government affairs director for 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.”