House Republicans advanced an amendment that would protect the federal funding of adoption agencies that refuse to work with same-sex couples on religious grounds.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, proposed the amendment as part of a funding bill for the Departments of Health, Labor and Education. It was passed nearly along party lines with only one Republican, Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia, not voting in its favor.
“The Federal Government, and any State or local government that receives Federal funding for any program that provides child welfare services,” the amendment states, “shall not discriminate or take an adverse action against a child welfare service provider on the basis that the provider has 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 moral convictions.”
If states and localities do “discriminate” against these agencies, the amendment permits the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold “15 percent of the federal funds the state or local government receives for a program that provides child welfare services.”
Rep. Aderholt said the amendment addresses “two serious problems currently facing our nation.”
“First, the current opioid epidemic has caused the number of children in foster care across America to skyrocket,” Aderholt said in a statement. “Secondly, 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. The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with same-sex couples.”
Aderholt argued that the amendment would “encourage states to include all experienced and licensed child welfare agencies so that children are placed in caring, loving homes where they can thrive. We need more support for these families and children in crisis, not less.”
“House Republicans chose to sacrifice the well-being of little children to push a bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda, potentially denying tens of thousands of vulnerable children the opportunity to find a loving and safe home,” Pelosi said in a statement. “House Democrats will fight this disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort with all our strength. There is no place for bigotry or discrimination in our foster and adoption systems – or in any part of our democracy.”
Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national LGBTQ advocacy organization, said the amendment would have a “sweeping, harmful impact in child welfare services” and would enable discrimination against “LGBTQ people, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other qualified parents to whom an agency has an objection.”