Six years ago, Brady Howe and his husband became parents. They adopted their son privately through the Open Adoptions & Family Services agency. Soon, they added the boy’s two older sisters to the family through the foster care system. Their family is an extended one, with birth mother, foster mothers, and grandmothers all actively involved in the kids’ lives.
A non-profit agency Open Adoptions also contracts with the state of Oregon to do home studies and placement reports. About 40 percent of the group’s client pool is gay, lesbian or single families, according to Shari Levine, the group’s executive director.
Catholic Charities is another non-profit providing adoption services for the state. The church does not believe in placing children with gay couples like Brady and his husband. Following their beliefs has led several states to shut Catholic Charities’ services down.
Faith-based providers in Massachusetts, Illinois, California and the District of Columbia have been forced to stop providing foster and adoption services because they will not place children with same-sex couples, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston announced it would not renew its contract with the state to provide foster and adoption services. “We have reached a dilemma we cannot resolve,” the group said in a press release at the time. “In spite of much effort and analysis, Catholic Charities finds that it cannot reconcile the teaching of the Church, which guides our work and the statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth.”
In the previous two decades, Catholic Charities of Boston had placed 720 children in permanent homes, according to the statement. Thirteen of these were with same-sex couples. Churches across the country are following suit:
- Catholic Charities of San Francisco also pulled out of adoption services for the same reason.
- When the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage in 2010, the district told Catholic Charities it was no longer eligible to provide adoption services because of its stance on same-sex couples, according to the group.
- In Illinois, Catholic Charities and other faith-based groups contracting with the state together transferred 2,000 cases to other organizations when they stopped providing services.
- Similar legislation has passed or is being considered in several states, including Alabama, Texas and South Dakota.
- Altogether, Catholic Charities completed 2,162 adoptions and had 11,000 foster care clients in 2015, according to the group.
The deeply held yet conflicting beliefs between the LGBTQ community and faith-based providers led Sen. Mike Enzi to introduce new federal legislation known as ‘The Inclusion Act’. The new federal legislation would allow faith-based groups like Catholic Charities to act on their “sincerely held religious beliefs” while continuing to contract with the state for foster and adoption services.
“Some people in positions of power are essentially discriminating against people of faith and seeking to force providers out of these services because of the providers’ beliefs,” Enzi said in a news release.
“The Inclusion Act would remedy this unjust discrimination by enabling all providers to serve the needs of parents and children in a manner consistent with the providers’ religious beliefs and moral convictions,” the USCCB said in a statement.
At the same time the LGBTQ community, worries the law would in fact legalize discrimination and, even more important, deny children access to some loving homes because of their own beliefs. “It’s a thinly veiled way of being discriminatory. It’s not up to the public to decide who an expectant parent chooses to adopt her child,” said Levine, with Open Adoption & Family Services.
While prospective parents often have a choice of whom they adopt through, children in the foster system do not, said Howe. “A child doesn’t have that luxury,” he said. “It seems like [the Inclusion Act] would be moving this country backwards.”