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ABA opposes state-sponsored discrimination against LGBT parents

In the United States, 21.4% of same-sex couples raise adopted children, compared to only 3% of opposite-sex couples. Same-sex couples also care for foster children more often than their opposite-sex counterparts. Preventing same-sex couples from adopting or fostering children could have a potentially devastating effect on the lives of the more than 440,000 kids in foster care in the United States.

Yet earlier this year, the American Bar Association released a report describing a dramatic increase in what it calls “state-sponsored discrimination” against LGBT parents in recent years, mostly from state governments but sometimes at the federal level. The report, titled “Increased Threats to LGBT Parenting,” urges lawmakers to defend victims of discrimination by promptly repealing measures that interfere with LGBT individuals’ and couples’ fundamental right to parent.

Supreme Court precedents

The ABA cites two recent Supreme Court decisions in arguing that LGBT parents should receive equal treatment under the law. The first is the Obergefell v. Hodges case from 2015 that gave same-sex couples the right to marry. The second is the 2017 Pavan v. Smith decision that affirms that the rights acknowledged by the Obergefell decision also apply to parenting.

Unfortunately, however, the ABA’s report describes a reality in which state governments do not always respect LGBT parents’ rights as established in these two landmark decisions. For example, 10 states currently have laws on the books allowing state-licensed child welfare agencies with religious affiliations to deny services to same-sex couples and LGBT individuals. Eight of those laws have gone into effect since the Obergefell decision in 2015.

Federal interference

The current administration has shown little interest in defending the rights of LGBT parents and their children. Rather, at times, it has actively worked to undermine them. While the laws of North Carolina are silent on LGBT adults fostering children, South Carolina is one of the eight states that has recently enacted laws allowing religious-based foster care agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples. Advocacy groups tried to prevent this by filing lawsuits, but the administration granted the state a waiver that allowed the practice to continue.

Just last month, the Department of Health and Human Services 
released a rule
 that rolls back the previous administration’s regulation establishing gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes. The new rule allows organizations that receive federal funding to deny services to LGBT people on based on religious or moral objections.