A Texas lesbian couple’s lawsuit over the denial of a foster care opportunity amounts to “gay bullying and harassment” in the mind of right-wing Catholic activist and noted homophobe Bill Donohue.
Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin filed suit in federal court Tuesday against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and several federal government agencies after the director of international foster care at the Catholic Charities of Fort Worth turned down their application to foster a refugee child because they don’t “mirror the Holy Family,” The Texas Tribune reports. The bishops’ conference receives federal funding that it funnels to the foster care program, so it is using taxpayer dollars to illegally discriminate based on Catholic beliefs, say the women, who are represented by Lambda Legal.
But Donohue contends the women are just trying to bully the Catholic church. “They’re gay activists,” he said Wednesday on The Ingraham Angle, Laura Ingraham’s show on the Fox News Channel (watch below). “They are trying to shove their secular values down our throats. ... Secular militants [are] trying to shove their way in and basically neuter Catholic institutions,” he continued.
He and Ingraham both said the couple could go to other religious groups or secular agencies in search of foster care opportunities, but they are targeting Catholic institutions to rob them of their religious identity. “The intent is to intimidate, to bully, to get them to capitulate,” Donohue said. In some states, Catholic groups have ceased providing adoption or foster care services rather than serve same-sex couples.
In the suit, the women describe how they developed a relationship with Catholic Charities. Marouf, a law professor at Texas A&M University, had worked with the group’s immigration clinic and in the process became familiar with its foster care program. She and Esplin were particularly interested in taking in a refugee child. An official agreed to a phone interview with them about the possibility, but when it became clear they are a same-sex couple, she say they would be ineligible.
"There was shock, anger, disappointment," Esplin, a bioethics professor at Texas A&M, told the Tribune. "Anger because it's a federal program and I was really upset that it had been handed over basically to Catholic charities to run based on their own values; and the federal government itself cannot discriminate that way."
The women had contacted the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to complain about the discrimination, but the only response they have received was a request for the names of the Catholic Charities officials involved.
In addition to the bishops’ conference, the suit names HHS, its Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the heads of those agencies. It was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
HHS did not respond to the Tribune’s request for comment. The Diocese of Fort Worth and the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a joint statement saying the foster care program “works within parameters of the Catholic Church’s teachings” and obeys all federal laws.