Last Wednesday, President Trump submitted a brief to the Supreme Court arguing that a taxpayer-funded organization should be able to refuse to work with same-sex couples. This is in response to Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case centered on a faith-based organization’s refusal to place children with adoptive or foster families of same-sex couples. This is an old story.
In 2018 the City of Philadelphia ended its contract with Catholic Social Services when they learned the agency refused to consider same-sex couples for foster care and adoptive placements. Catholic Social Services lost in district court. They appealed and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision. In February they appealed again to the Supreme Court with the help of attorneys from Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. As it stands, 11 states have laws that make it possible for state-licensed agencies to claim “religious exemptions” in cases like these. More states have been considering placing similar laws in place.
When 20,000 children age out of the system without finding a suitable adoptive placement we have to remember who these policies hurt. Gay couples adopt at higher rates per capita than their heterosexual peers, and are more likely to offer their homes to children traditionally harder to adopt such as teenagers, kids with disabilities, and minority children.
Religious exclusion are not grounded is the best interest of children, but are rather based in homophobic beliefs that gays and lesbians are perverted, unsafe around children, or will somehow magically turn children gay, as if that is a) possible or b) the worst thing a child could be.
This hits home for me as a lesbian, particularly one who works directly with children. By signing this brief, Trump communicated something I’ve heard my entire life: gays and lesbians are inherently sexually perverted and are therefore incapable of caring for children. I have spent my entire professional career caring for vulnerable populations. I have provided direct care to individuals with disabilities who have some of the highest rates of abuse compared to other populations, the most common perpetrators being staff. I have grown up with a family that worked at a residential treatment facility, serving kids that wanted a home and family more than anything. There is a huge crisis in foster care. We do not have enough homes for kids who need them, and knowing the crisis faced by agencies (such as the one identified in the brief) to find suitable homes for children, it hurts to think that to these people, no home is better than one with someone like me.
I have dedicated my life to the care and welfare of children. I have cried with kids, mourned losses with them, supported them through challenges, and been their greatest cheerleader. Supporting children, particularly those who have not been given an equal opportunity in life, is my passion. I have had the displeasure to read the abuses suffered by children at the hands of adults who were not equipped to care for them, often because of their own trauma, perpetuating a cycle of abuse, or because predators sought out opportunities to be in close proximity to children who were vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.
When I think of the press gay and lesbian parents get, I often feel like the worst is placed on display. There is immense pressure on gay and lesbian couples to be perfect, to dispel the homophobic narrative that follows us around. When I type “lesbian foster moms” into Google, the second article to appear was an article about the Hart Family; the story of two lesbian moms who drove themselves and their six adopted children off a cliff after reports of abuse and neglect were surfacing. The experiences of those children were unacceptable and painful to read.
They reminded me of the dozens of cases of abuse and neglect experienced at the hands of heterosexual parents I’ve read throughout my career, but those do not make headlines. Those don’t define someone’s opinion about the care-taking abilities of straight parents. How long will it take for “lesbian foster moms” to pull results about successful, loving placements, instead of horrific cases?
I know what it takes to become a foster parent. I know that prospective foster parents have their lives turned inside out, their private affairs on display. I know that the people near them are interviewed and their finances reviewed. Not all foster parents are perfect, but I believe that most seek out the opportunity because they want to help children. Most enter into the role with open hearts, wanting to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable and traumatized children. There are countless ways to determine if someone is a risk to children–someone’s sexual orientation is not one of these.
Hiding behind the guise of religious freedom is a cop-out. Using that justification, they should also deny parents who work on Sundays, fathers who shave the sides of their heads, and families that eat shellfish, or purchase mixed-fabric clothing. There is no consistency in their discrimination except homophobia. Homophobia is the root of their refusal. It is based on harmful stereotypes that label us hyper-sexual, perverted, pedophiles, drug-addicted and generally unfit. They do not honor their faith by denying safe homes to children who need them; they reinforce hate.