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Anti-discrimination Adoption Bill Introduced

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Democratic U.S. congressman Pete Stark of California (pictured) introduced legislation last Thursday that would prohibit states and child welfare agencies from restricting adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation or marital status of potential parents.

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act [H.R 3827] would cut off federal funding for any entity, such as a state program or an agency, that receives federal assistance for adoption or foster care placements but does not comply with the nondiscrimination policies set forth in the legislation.

Utah, Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Mississippi all have laws that explicitly ban or restrict adoptions by same-sex parents, and a dozen or so more states are considering or have considered similar laws.

"The states have a right to their own laws, but they don't have a right to federal money," Stark said. "Morality is hard to legislate, control of money is a lot easier."

Stark added that the issue goes well beyond state laws and, in some cases, same-sex parent adoptions are denied or delayed by individual agencies, judges, or social workers.

"We have 25,000 kids who mature out of foster care every year without adoptive or permanent homes," Stark said, "and the results are tragic -- they just don't do as well as kids who have good foster or adoptive care." More than 129,000 children are also waiting for an adoptive home or permanent placement, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill, which has no cosponsors, is modeled after the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA), passed in 1994, which prohibits racial discrimination in foster care and adoption placements.

Stark admitted that the legislation could take a few years to gain traction but said he wanted to "get the issue out there and have it discussed."

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