New Rule - Adoption Agencies Could Exclude Based On Religion

 

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A new rule has been proposed by Trump administration regarding the rights of adoption agencies and foster care to refuse to serve people based on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. That means that social service providers receiving taxpayer funding from the Department of Health and Human Services could potentially choose who to deny their services to.

The proposed rule released Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services is contrary to the 2016 provision enacted in the final days of the Obama administration that prohibited such agencies from receiving government funding if they discriminate against clients based on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Back then, opponents argued that the requirements forced child welfare agencies to choose between their religious beliefs or continue receiving federal funding.

The new rule, critics warn, would also permit discrimination against LGBTQ people by other HHS programs receiving federal funding, including programs that help with HIV prevention, youth homelessness, and refugee resettlement. Federal statutes will continue to prohibit discrimination based on nationality and race.

Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for LGBTQ families, said the rule harms children in foster care. "Changing federal nondiscrimination rules to allow child-placing agencies to reduce the pool of qualified potential foster and adoptive parents runs counter to the cardinal rule of child welfare: that the best interests of children in care must come first," Denise Brogan-Kator, the group's chief policy officer, said in a statement Friday.

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Opposition to the proposed rule was sharp and fast.

“On any given day there are more than 440,000 in the foster care system in the United States,” said Christina Wilson Remlin, lead counsel for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit New York-based advocacy and legal firm. “Given the context of the foster care crisis in placement options, we simply cannot abide any proposal that would enable taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples, Jewish couples, Catholic couples, Muslim couples and any other family system whose religious beliefs do not match those of the child-placing agencies.”

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, criticized the new rule for potentially harming vulnerable children. “We are putting children squarely in the middle of the culture war,” she said. “It’s hard to understand how children are being served by this move.”

The proposed rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register early next week. It will be followed by a 30-day public comment period.

 

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