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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 16, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: New policy allows faith-based discrimination against LGBTQ families

A new policy proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration would allow foster care and adoption groups and agencies to deny LGBTQ families on faith-based grounds. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the proposed rule Nov. 1, which is the first day of National Adoption Month. The proposal would roll back an Obama-era discrimination regulation that included sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. As it currently stands, religious groups wishing to apply for HHS grants must request a waiver from the Obama-era regulation. 

Under the new policy, any foster care organizations, adoption groups or other entities that get department funding are legally allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals and families. The rule could be published in the Federal Register as early as this week. When published, it will be followed by a 30-day comment period, after which comments will close and the rule will officially be established. 

The White House released a statement Nov. 2 that defended the administration’s decision to allow faith-based discrimination within adoption and foster networks.

“The administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule that was proposed in the 12 o’clock hour of the last administration that jeopardizes the ability of faith-based providers to continue serving their communities,” the statement said. “The federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith.”

This policy will have a significant effect on the ability of LGBTQ couples to start families. Same-sex couples with children are far more likely to adopt children than heterosexual couples, according to a recent report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. The report says 21.4% of same-sex couples with children have at least one adopted child, compared to 3% of heterosexual couples. 

The proposal has received significant pushback from LGBTQ individuals, activist groups and allies. 

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Trump administration’s proposal is horrific and would permit discrimination across the spectrum of HHS programs. 

“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,” he said in a statement. 

Since President Trump took office in January 2017, his administration has made a number of moves that directly discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community. This includes a recently proposed rule from the Department of Labor that would expand the ability of federal contractors to exempt themselves from equal opportunity requirements, a ban on transgender military service members and the withdrawal of a landmark 2016 guidance that explained how schools must protect transgender students under the federal Title IX law.