House Republicans are attempting to pass a “license to discriminate” against same-sex couples by attaching an anti-LGBTQ amendment to a funding bill.
Introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), the amendment would allow faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to deny placement to same-sex families. The proposal would prevent state entities from taking action against providers who “have declined or will decline to provide, facilitate or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or convictions.”
Any state that violates the legislation would be penalized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a 15 percent reduction in federal funding for child welfare services.
The funding bill to which the amendment is attached passed the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 33 to 29, which largely fell along party lines. Virginia Republican Scott Taylor was the only conservative committee member to cast a vote against the bill.
Republicans view the bill as necessary to protect faith-based entities from being forced to violate their “religious liberty.”
“Several states and localities across the country are not allowing religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services, to operate child welfare agencies,” Aderholt said in a statement. “The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with same-sex couples.”
Supporters of the legislation noted that adoption and foster care centers in several states—including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania—shut their doors to avoid placing children with same-sex families.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) called this week’s vote a “milestone.”
“This is a win for the entire faith-based child welfare provider community and, most importantly, all the innocent children they serve who are waiting for forever homes,” the conservative said in a statement.
But opponents of the amendment say it achieves the opposite of what Kelly suggests—limiting the available pool of adoptive parents. Same-sex couples are more than four times as likely as heterosexual partners to adopt. An estimated 13 percent of LGBTQ parents are raising an adopted child, compared to just three percent of opposite-sex couples with children.
It may also hinder the ability of LGBTQ youth to find placement in a loving home. Queer and trans youth are vastly overrepresented in the U.S. adoption and foster care system.
In coming out to oppose the amendment, ACLU Legislative Representative Ian Thompson claimed Aderholt’s proposal “essentially privileges the religious and moral beliefs of providers over the best interest of children who are in their care.”
Other LGBTQ advocacy groups joined the ACLU in strongly opposing the amendment.
“Any member of Congress who supports this amendment is clearly stating that it is more important to them to discriminate than it is to find loving homes for children in need,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs at Human Rights Campaign, in a statement.
“HRC urges Congress to reject this discriminatory amendment in the final appropriations bill,” he added.
“Taxpayer dollars should never be used to promote discrimination against any American, LGBTQ or otherwise,” claimed Kasey Suffredini, the president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans, in a statement. “It’s shocking to see some lawmakers willing to hurt not only LGBTQ Americans, but vulnerable children waiting for forever homes.”
He further called the amendment’s impact “urgent,” “real,” and “a detriment to all Americans.”
Similar legislation has been passed in states like Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia, as well as Kansas and Oklahoma earlier this year. The House amendment is reminiscent of South Dakota’s anti-LGBTQ adoption law, which was likewise attached as an amendment to a government appropriations bill.
Critics of those bills have warned they would permit sweeping, unchecked bias against a broad range of groups—including single parents, interfaith families, Muslim couples, or even parents who have been previously divorced.
But these efforts have been pushed heavily by groups like Catholic Charities, which have urged people of faith to write their legislators in favor of discrimination.
Aderholt’s amendment will now head to the floor of the House of Representatives, where it will be debated by the entire body. In order to vote down the proposal, however, legislators would have to vote against the budget bill to which it’s attached—which concerns federal spending on education and health.
Even if the amendment passes the House, the Senate version of the bill does not have the anti-LGBTQ provision attached—meaning the two houses would have to agree on a version of the budget bill before it reaches President Trump’s desk.
It’s unlikely the upper body would approve the proposal.
Calling the anti-LGBTQ amendment a “sickening new low,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi vowed to continue fighting its passage.
“House Democrats will fight this disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort with all our strength,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “There is no place for bigotry or discrimination in our foster and adoption systems—or in any part of our democracy.”