Lambda Lawsuit Against HHS Raises Questions about Catholic Charities Grants

· Updated on May 28, 2018

A Texas lesbian couple has hit the federal government and the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) with a lawsuit after they weredenied an application to foster refugee children.

The case, filed in U.S. District Court by Lambda Legal Tuesday, raises pressing question about Health and Human Service (HHS) grants to organizations that discriminate against same-sex couples.

Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin of Fort Worth allege that Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) denied them the opportunity to even apply to become foster parents to refugee children because they are a same-sex couple.

According to the complaint, the married couple started talking to CCFW about fostering in early 2017. It states that the pair participated in a phone interview with Executive Committee of CCFW’s Board of Directors, Donna Springer during which Springer told them they must “mirror the Holy Family.”

Fatma told Springer that they were a same-sex couple, the complaint states, and Springer replied that they weren’t qualified to foster. Surprised, Fatma inquired about LGBTQ refugee children.

“Springer responded that none of the approximately 700 children that CCFW serves is a member of the LGBT community,” the complaint states.

“Being denied the opportunity to foster a child because we don’t ‘mirror the Holy Family’–clearly code for being a same-sex couple–was hurtful and insulting to us,” says Esplin in a statement. “More than that, though, insisting on such a narrow, religious view of what a family must look like deprives these children of a nurturing, supportive home.”

Neither CCFW nor the USCCB responded to requests to comment.

Despite shifting public opinion, USCCB’sstances on marriageand family remain breathtakingly offensive to LGBTQ people as well as single parents. The Conference refers to single parenthood as “undesired” but acceptable.

“In contrast, arrangements of two men or two women are incapable of such witness and present motherhood and fatherhood as disposable,” USCCB’s website states. “These arrangements of themselves contradict the conjugal and generative reality of marriage and are never acceptable. Children deserve to have their need for a father and a mother respected and protected in law.”

The complaint argues that HHS funded a discriminatory organization without safeguards protecting potential foster parents or youth. In doing so, it states HHS violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires that the government not endorse a religion, as well as Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

“When Federal Defendants enable organizations to turn away qualified foster or adoptive parent applicants based on criteria unrelated to child welfare, such as the applicants’ sexual orientation or sex or the same-sex character of their marriage, or the religious beliefs of the organizations, the number of potential homes for children is reduced,” the complaint states.

The matter of funding to USCCB is no small issue. The organization takes in millions in federal resettlement annually, according to Lambda Legal.

In 2016, the ACLUsued HHS for allocating taxpayer money to USCCB for caring for unaccompanied immigrant minors. The ACLU claims that the department violated the separation of church and state by endorsing religious beliefs.

HHS did not respond to a request to comment.

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