Congress Turns Back Anti-LGBTQ Adoption Amendment

Parents and child

Legislation that would allow adoption and foster care agencies receiving federal funds to discriminate against prospective parents because of sexual orientation or other factors has been defeated.

The measure, known informally as the Aderholt amendment, was attached to a spending bill by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee in July. But Wednesday, the full House approved the spending bill without the amendment, according to the Family Equality Council, which worked against the discriminatory provision. The Senate has already passed its version of the bill, without any such amendment.

The amendment, named for its author, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, would have allowed faith-based agencies to turn away prospective parents who posed a conflict with an agency’s religious doctrine, whether by being LGBTQ, single, a member of a different faith, or another factor. It was similar to laws passed by some states, including, recently, Kansas and Oklahoma. It “also required states to allow foster care and adoption agencies to deny a broad range of child welfare services to foster children based on religious or moral beliefs, cutting their funding if they did not comply,” notes the Family Equality Council’s press release.

The House Appropriations Committee had added the amendment to the fiscal 2019 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Defense, and Health and Human Services in a 33-29 vote that came largely along party lines, with only one Republican, Scott Taylor of Virginia, voting against it. Aderholt, a Republican, claimed the amendment was needed because some states and municipalities had ceased using certain faith-based nonprofits for child welfare services when the organizations wouldn’t place children with same-sex couples. These state and local governments were discriminating against the faith-based groups, he contended.

A coalition of 300 civil rights and child welfare groups, including the Family Equality Council, PFLAG, Lambda Legal, and Voice for Adoption, created the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign to fight the amendment. The campaign “successfully mobilized to press Congress to say no to depriving foster children of loving homes and needed services,” Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer for Family Equality Council, said in the press release. “The Aderholt amendment had broken the cardinal rule of child welfare — that the needs of children should come first.”

Also, 40 senators, led by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders opposing the amendment, showing it could never win Senate approval.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat and ranking member on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, praised the defeat of the amendment. “I was proud to fight to ensure that the Aderholt amendment — which would have inserted bigotry and discrimination into our foster care and adoption systems — was removed from this year’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill, she said in the Family Equality Council’s press release. “Children deserve to live in safe, happy, and healthy permanent homes, and their best interests should always be placed first. No qualified adoptive and foster care parent should be discriminated against, period.”

The Human Rights Campaign also lauded Congress for turning back the amendment. “Fortunately, Congress has rejected this harmful effort to discriminate against LGBTQ people while disregarding what is in the best interests of children,” said a statement released by HRC government affairs director David Stacy. “Congress should be focusing on ways to help children in the child welfare system find homes rather than creating needless obstacles for prospective parents, effectively shrinking the pool of qualified folks who want to provide children with a loving home.”

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