Couple’s foster-parent application rejected: Their marriage doesn’t ‘mirror the holy family’

A Fort Worth, Texas same-sex married couple is suing the federal government after a Catholic nonprofit that receives taxpayer funding denied them the opportunity to serve as foster parents for refugee children because of their sexual orientation.

Fatma Marouf, 41, and Bryn Esplin, 33, legally married three years ago, and are both professors at Texas A&M University. They contacted the Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, an affiliate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contracts USCCB to coordinate some of its federal child welfare services. Because of the couple’s multicultural heritage — Marouf’s parents were immigrants from Egypt and Turkey, and Esplin was raised Mormon in Utah and Nevada — they decided that the CCFW’s program “seemed like such a good fit for us,” Marouf said.

But when Marouf made the initial call to the CCFW’s board of directors, she says they were told sorry, but you can’t be foster parents because you don’t “mirror the holy family.”

So Tuesday, with the help of the Lambda Legal defense organization, they filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and several other involved federal organizations.

“The U.S. government is endorsing one set of religious beliefs over another in violation of the constitution and is unlawfully discriminating against LGBT people,” Jamie Gliksberg, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, told WFAA, an ABC News affiliate.

In the lawsuit, the couple also says they asked if, perhaps, any of the children in the program might be lesbian or gay. They say they were told that “none” of the 700 children are LGBT.

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