The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a new rule today that would allow adoption and foster agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Today is also the start of National Adoption Month.
The rule would apply to adoption and foster care agencies, allowing them to refuse to work with LGBTQ families. But it would go much further and allow any organization that gets an HHS grant for a health care or child care program to refuse to serve LGBTQ people, even though they are getting federal taxpayer money.
Currently, HHS rules ban giving grants to organizations that discriminate based on a list of factors. According to a notice posted on HHS’s website, a proposed rule would remove sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion from that list and allow grant recipients to treat same-sex marriages differently from different-sex marriages.
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The change most notably impacts religious foster and adoption agencies. Earlier this year, HHS waived its anti-discrimination rules for a South Carolina foster agency that didn’t want to place children with families that didn’t meet the organization’s religious standards.
“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,” said Julie Kruse of Family Equality. “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.”
The rule change would go further than that, allowing all HHS grant recipients to discriminate. Many of these are related to public health, like HIV and STI programs, opioid addiction programs, and health research. Other programs that address various issues like youth homelessness, human trafficking, and pre-K education will also be allowed to discriminate and still receive federal money.
“This rule is an abuse of taxpayer dollars in the name of empowering hatred and bigotry towards society’s most vulnerable members,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“Stigma and prejudice are fueling a public health crisis among transgender people across the country, one that manifests itself as suicide, addiction, intimate partner violence, and HIV. Enabling providers of life-saving services to worsen these crises by rejecting transgender people is a moral crime and a severe abdication of HHS’s mission to preserve public health.”
HHS defended the proposal by pointing to religious freedom, saying that organizations with religious objections to following the rules should still be allowed to get federal money.
The proposed rule change also says that some organizations might just give up their federal grant if forced to follow the rules. While this would free up the money for compliant organizations, HHS argues that this is the worse outcome.
“The Department believes that such an outcome would likely reduce the effectiveness of programs funded by federal grants by reducing the number of entities available to provide services under these programs,” HHS argues.
Christian conservative activists celebrated the proposed rule change.
“Thanks to President Trump, charities will be free to care for needy children and operate according to their religious beliefs and the reality that children do best in a home with a married mom and dad,” said Tony Perkins of the SPLC designated hate group Family Research Council.