By Aarushi Pant and Sofia Pham
The Trump administration has overturned an Obama-era rule that prevented discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, allowing for faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to deny services to LGBT families. The proposed rule, released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), would enable these organizations to continue to receive taxpayer funding even if they turn away LGBT families on the basis of religious beliefs.
The new policy could also allow for discrimination against LGBT people by other programs that recieve HHS funding, such as medical or youth organizations.
“The proposed rule would better align its grants regulations with federal statutes, eliminating regulatory burden, including the burden on the free exercise of religion,” HHS said in a recent news release.
The overturned 2016 rule previously banned discrimination on the basis of sex and gender orientation and had been criticized by groups claiming it restricted the work and outreach of religious groups on community affairs. The HHR claimed that the new policy “represents the Trump Administration’s strong commitment to the rule of law,” seeking to allow religious groups more freedoms.
“These require that the federal government not infringe on religious freedom in its operation of HHS grant programs and address the impact of regulatory actions on small entities,” HHS said.
The proposed rule, according to the New York Times, will be followed by a 30-day comment period. After that period ends, the decision will be final. The new policy, however, has already received backlash from numerous groups calling for an end to discrimination against the LGBT community.
“Changing federal nondiscrimination rules to allow child-placing agencies to reduce the pool of qualified potential foster and adoptive parents runs counter to the cardinal rule of child welfare: that the best interests of children in care must come first,” Denise Brogan-Kator from Family Equality Council, an LGBT advocacy organization, said.
In 2010, there were 115,064 total same-sex couples with children in the U.S. Additionally, 13 percent of LGBT families in 2013 had an adopted child, in comparison to 3 percent of heterosexual couples, meaning that same-sex families are 4 times more likely to adopt one of the 443,000 children in the foster care system.
“It is outrageous that the Trump administration would mark the start of National Adoption Month by announcing a rule to further limit the pool of loving homes available to America’s 440,000 foster children,” Julie Kruse, director of federal policy at Family Equality Council, said. “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.”