GOP Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Legalize Adoption Discrimination

By Shelby Clark Petkus

LGBTQ Nation reports that two Republican lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would "license discrimination." The bill, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014, aims to allow adoption and foster-care agencies the right to deny services based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions. Critics see the bill as yet another means of discrimination against same-sex couples.

Though the bill does not specify same-sex couples as targets, it does say that the act would "ensure that organizations with religious or moral convictions are allowed to continue to provide services for children," which would include prohibiting state and federal governments from terminating funding over anti-discrimination law violations. Child welfare services that might be "aggrieved" under the bill would also be due "all appropriate relief, including declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and compensatory damages." Any adverse actions that could cause such issues to those whose religious beliefs are "violated" include "denying a child welfare service provider's application for funding, refusing to renew the provider's funding, canceling the provider's funding, declining to enter into a contract with the provider, refusing to renew a contract with the provider, canceling a contract with the provider, declining to issue a license to the provider, refusing to renew the provider's license, canceling the provider's license, terminating the provider's employment" and more.

In a potential issue of separation of church and state, the bill finds that "Religious organizations have long been and should continue contracting with and receiving grants from governmental entities to provide child welfare services." The text of the bill also references states where same-sex marriage legalization has occurred, such as Massachusetts, California and Illinois. Some religious adoption agencies, like Catholic Charities, have refused to allow same-sex couples to adopt in those states.

U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo) and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa) introduced the bill following the recent political trend in "religious freedom bills." LGBTQ Nation claims that "critics charge that opponents of same-sex marriage have turned to religious liberty arguments as a basis for discriminating against gays and lesbian as federal courts continue to strike down same-sex marriage bans." Earlier this year, conservative legislators in Arizona passed SB 1062, or the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act." Had Gov. Jan Brewer not vetoed the bill, private business owners would have been able to refuse services to LGBTQ customers based on their religious beliefs. Mississippi successfully passed a very similar bill a month later, this time signed by the state's governor, Phil Bryant.

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court infamously ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that commercial employers did not have to provide contraceptive coverage if doing so violated their "personal religious beliefs." Anti-gay groups have increased their political activity since the ruling.

"It's increasingly clear that, post-Hobby Lobby, some in positions of power believe that religious freedom should only belong to a few," said Ellen Kahn, Director of the HRC Foundation's Children, Youth and Families Program. "If this bill passes, an Evangelical straight couple, a single father or a committed and loving gay and lesbian couple could find their path to adoption blocked for no reasonable reason other than naked discrimination. This bill has nothing to do with faith."

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