WASHINGTON — Two Republican lawmakers have introduced new legislation aimed at allowing adoption and foster-care agencies to deny services based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions, but critics charge the bill would simply enable agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.
“The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014” would “ensure that organizations with religious or moral convictions are allowed to continue to provide services for children” by prohibiting state and federal governments from terminating funding or contracts with local agencies over anti-discrimination laws.
Though the text of the bill makes no mention of gay or same-sex couples, it does reference a number of states — including Massachusetts, California,and Illinois — where recognition of same-sex marriage has created conflict Catholic Charities, which has refused to provide adoption services to same-sex couples.
The measure, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, (R-Wyo.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), comes as “religious freedom” bills have failed or were scrapped in more than a dozen state legislatures this year, the most high profile bill being that of Arizona’s SB 1062, which passed in that state’s GOP-controlled legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer following nationwide backlash.
Critics charge that opponents of same-sex marriage have turned to religious liberty arguments as a basis for discriminating against gays and lesbian as federal courts continue to strike down same-sex marriage bans.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case brought by Hobby Lobby that said family-owned businesses do not have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.
Article continues belowThat ruling gave new hope anti-gay groups, and the ruling has since led to an increase in calls for greater permission to discriminate against LGBT Americans on the basis of religious liberty.
“It’s increasingly clear that, post-Hobby Lobby, some in positions of power believe that religious freedom should only belong to a few,” said Ellen Kahn, Director of the HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth, and Families Program.
“If this bill passes, an Evangelical straight couple, a single father, or a committed and loving gay and lesbian couple could find their path to adoption blocked for no reasonable reason other than naked discrimination,” added Kahn.
“This bill has nothing to do with faith,” she said/