New Bill Could Force Church Out of the U.S. Adoption Business

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A new bill introduced in the U.S. House aimed at stifling “homophobic opposition” to same-sex adoptions could lead to a shut-down of all religiously affiliated adoption agencies in the U.S.

EWTN News is reporting that Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), along with 52 co-sponsors, has introduced the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act.” This bill prohibits “discrimination in adoption or foster care placements” based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved.

“The bill would affect any adoption or foster care agency that receives federal assistance or contracts with an entity that receives federal assistance.”

Rep. Stark told the Huffington Post he introduce the measure because of the “homophobic opposition that has tried to decide that gay people aren’t suitable adoptive parents.”

He said there is a “tremendous need” for adoptive parents in the U.S. and that eliminating this discrimination might mean a home for “thousands of kids who would otherwise be stuck in foster care.”

But experts such as Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, disagree.

“It would have the effect of either banning Christian adoption agencies or forbidding them from acting on their faith convictions and their moral convictions in terms of what is in the best interest of a child,” he said.

By doing this, the bill would drive out some of the most effective adoption services in the nation.

“Christian adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities have such an outstanding record,” he said. “It would be sacrificing the interest of children to drive them out of the adoption business.” 

In 2009 Catholic Charities completed 3,794 adoptions and provided adoption services to 43,982 clients. It provided foster care services for 18,344 children and adolescents, the Catholic Charities USA 2009 Annual Survey reports.

Lori Windham, Senior Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said a bill like this will mean fewer homes for children in the future.

“This legislation would prohibit adoption agencies and foster care agencies, including religious adoption agencies and foster care agencies, from providing services in many cases,” she warned. “They would have to choose between following their religious beliefs and shutting down.”

Similar laws passed on the state level have already forced some agencies to close. For instance, a regulation enforcement in Massachusetts compelled the Boston Catholic Charities affiliate to stop providing adoption services because it could not place children with same-sex couples.

The District of Columbia’s “gay marriage” law last year resulted in the shutdown of the local Catholic Charities’ foster care and public adoption programs because the law required the agency to provide services to homosexual couples.

Just last week, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockford ended its adoption and foster care program because it could not comply with a new civil unions law passed despite religious freedom objections in December 2010.

The passage of a bill such as this on the federal level could have the same impact on religiously affiliated agencies in the U.S. as it did in the U.K. where a similar law caused the closure or disaffiliation of all Catholic adoption agencies because they could not in good conscience place children with same-sex couples.

Sprigg cited the “unique problems” associated with homosexual and cohabiting heterosexual relationships which studies show make them more “likely to be less stable than a married husband-and-wife household,” he said. “Therefore, I think it’s legitimate to disfavor them or to exclude them altogether.”

Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

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