Earlier this week Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) proposed legislation in the Senate and House that would allow child welfare services and adoption agencies to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.
The bill proposes “To prohibit governmental entities from discriminating or taking an adverse action against a child welfare service provider on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child welfare service that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with the sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions of the provider.”
This bill would make it illegal for government agencies to pursue claims of discrimination against child welfare service providers, like adoption agencies, who refuse to provide services based upon religious claims. There are several religious adoption agencies, such as Catholic Charities, that have refused to allow same-sex couples to adopt in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
Not surprisingly, several religious groups, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, have clamored to support the proposed legislation. The Washington Blade has reported that the bill is being spearheaded by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council (a Southern Poverty Law Center-listed hate group) and the Heritage Foundation.
Family Equality Council Executive Director Gabriel Blau has opposed the legislation, stating, “It becomes more evident with each advance we make towards equality, that the opposition would rather continue enforcing discrimination than protecting children. The implications of this bill are broad and sweeping and could serve as a barrier to placements not just with LGBT people but also with anyone who is single, has been divorced or who practices a different religion.”
Ellen Kahn, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Children, Youth, and Families Program, also released a statement:
“It’s increasingly clear that, post-Hobby Lobby, some in positions of power believe that religious freedom should only belong to a few. 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. Taxpayer funds should not be used to discriminate, and too many children need loving families right now for our elected officials to be playing these kinds dangerous political games. This bill has nothing to do with faith, and it must be condemned.”
Noted anti-LGBT representatives Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) have co-sponsored the legislation in the House. None of Utah’s delegation have signed on as of August 7.