HRC today released a letter from leading national child welfare agencies opposing a bill in the Nebraska Unicam, LB 975, which would enshrine discrimination into Nebraska law by allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to reject prospective parents based on "the child placing agency's sincerely held religious beliefs."
LB 975 would mean that an agency could turn away a range of Nebraskans seeking to adopt a child -- from LGBT couples to interfaith couples, single parents or a married couple where one prospective parent had been previously divorced.
The letter, from the Donaldson Adoption Institute, Voice for Adoption, North American Council on Adoptable Children and National center on Adoption and Permanency, notes that more than two decades of research showing that children raised by lesbian and gay foster parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents and that qualified and eager parents should not be excluded because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Read the full text of the letter here.
“With more than 6,000 children in Nebraska’s foster care system, lawmakers should be focusing on ensuring these decisions are made based on the best interest of the child, rather than throwing up more barriers for families seeking to adopt,” said Ellen Kahn, director of HRC’s Children, Youth, and Families Program. “LB 975 has absolutely no place in Nebraska and would only put children, and families at an unacceptable risk for more discrimination.”
LB 975 is a sweepingly broad bill that endorses taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people and a significant range of other Nebraskans. For example, an agency could turn away a single parent seeking to foster a child in need and the single parent would have no recourse. The same would be true of a married couple in which one of the prospective parents had previously been divorced. Maybe most egregious, this bill would forbid the state from withdrawing funds from or rescinding the license of an agency that referred a child to the abusive, discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” if such abuse is consistent with the agency’s religious beliefs.
The best interests of the child are not served by enshrining taxpayer-funded discrimination into law; the best interests of the child are served by making a case by case determination about whether placement of a child with a prospective family is in that child’s best interest. Offering adoption and foster care services to the public is a secular activity, since children in the protection of the state are the state’s children while they are there, and discriminating against prospective parents using taxpayer dollars does a disservice both to the children who need homes and to the entire state.
One of the cruelest consequences of these types of bills is that they would allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their extended families - a practice often considered to be in the best interest of the child - based solely on the agency’s religious beliefs. A loving, LGBT grandparent, for example, or a stable, welcoming LGBT relative could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.
The attacks on fairness and equality in Nebraska are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills in 32 states. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/