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The Trump administration kicked off National Adoption Month by attacking LGBTQ families.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced a new rule Friday that would allow adoption agencies and other programs that receive HHS grants to reject same-sex couples and rainbow families on the basis of religious freedom, reports the Washington Blade. Other programs that stand to be affected include elder services, Head Start, refugee resettlement, HIV services, and programs for runaway and homeless youth.
The proposed regulation would nullify an Obama-era policy that prohibited federally funded agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Anti-LGBTQ groups had filed complaints against the Obama-era policy, claiming it went against the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In its proposal, HHS pointed to these complaints -- as well as the possibility that religion-tied agencies would rather shutter than provide services to LGBTQ people -- as justification for its new rule. Enforcing the Obama-era rule "imposed regulatory burden and created a lack of predictability and stability for the department and stakeholders with respect to these provisions' viability and enforcement," the proposal claimed.
And even though the Trump administration regulation is in proposed status and subject to public comment, the administration, through HHS, announced today that it will no longer enforce the Obama-era policy, meaning discrimination begins today. Discrimination against people who are of the "wrong" faith or offend a service provider's religious beliefs for some other reason will also be allowed, civil rights activists said on a conference call with reporters.
The new rule was slammed by LGBTQ organizations. "Children should never be denied the opportunity to join a stable, loving family -- even if that means the family is LGBTQ," said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD.
Ellis added, "Research has shown LGBTQ families provide the same kind of love, protection, and support as other families, and no child should be denied that kind of environment. The Trump administration has once again demonstrated how they prefer to prioritize the gross work of anti-LGBTQ activists over the safety and well-being of our children."
"The American public overwhelmingly opposes allowing taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to turn away qualified parents simply because they are in a same-sex relationship," said Julie Kruse, Family Equality Council's director of federal policy, who called the rule "outrageous."
On the other side of the political spectrum, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council -- deemed an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- praised the new regulation.
"Thanks to President Trump, charities will be free to care for needy children and operate according to their religious beliefs and the reality that children do best in a home with a married mom and dad," Perkins said.
The scope of the anti-LGBTQ rule extends beyond adoption. It would also permit health care providers to discriminate against transgender people, according to Mara Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality's executive director.
"This rule is an abuse of taxpayer dollars in the name of empowering hatred and bigotry towards society's most vulnerable members," Keisling said in a statement. "Stigma and prejudice are fueling a public health crisis among transgender people across the country, one that manifests itself as suicide, addiction, intimate partner violence and HIV. Enabling providers of life-saving services to worsen these crises by rejecting transgender people is a moral crime and a severe abdication of HHS's mission to preserve public health."
"The Trump-Pence White House has proposed a horrific federal regulation that would permit discrimination across the entire spectrum of HHS programs receiving federal funding," added Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. "This would permit discrimination against LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and women in programs related to foster care, adoption, HIV and STI prevention, youth homelessness, refugee resettlement, elder care programs and more. It is unconscionable that the Trump-Pence administration would prioritize advancing discrimination over the wellbeing of vulnerable people and expect taxpayers to foot the bill for their discriminatory policies. The Trump-Pence White House is relying on the same flawed legal reasoning they've used in the past to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people and other communities."
The public has 30 days to submit comment on the new regulation after its publication in the Federal Register.
Reporter Trudy Ring contributed to this article.