US: New bill gives religious adoption agencies the ability to reject same-sex applicants

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Two Republican political figures have introduced a bill that seeks to allow adoption and foster-care agencies the ability to deny services based on their “religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

Opposers of the legislation say the bill would allow agencies the ability to discriminate against same-sex couples hoping to open their homes to children.

The measure has been introduced by Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Republican Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania.

According to the bill, The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014 would “ensure that organizations with religious or moral convictions are allowed to continue to provide services for children.”

Though the bill does not directly mention same-sex couples, it does say that states like Massachusetts, California, Illinois and the District of Columbia threaten the religious and moral freedom of organisations that are “unable, due to sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions, to provide a child welfare service that conflicts … with those beliefs or convictions.”

The states mentioned in the bill are all states that have legalised same-sex marriage.

Though the bill does not mention the phrase “same-sex couples” once, some religious organisations are already seeing the possibility of denying services to such couples.

In a breakdown of the bill by The United Conference of Catholic Bishops, the organisation states: “The Inclusion Act is needed because child welfare service providers are being subjected to discrimination because of their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions.

“For example, certain religiously affiliated charities in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia have had to stop serving adults and children through the provision of adoption and foster care services because of requirements imposed upon them to place children in households headed by two persons of the same sex.

“These requirements are contrary to their sincerely held religious belief and moral conviction that children ought to be placed in homes headed by a married couple – one man and one woman.”

In a statement, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Children, Youth, and Families Program Ellen Kahn said: “If this bill passes, an Evangelical straight couple, a single father, or a committed and loving gay and lesbian couple could find their path to adoption blocked for no reasonable reason other than naked discrimination.

“Taxpayer funds should not be used to discriminate, and too many children need loving families right now for our elected officials to be playing these kinds dangerous political games.

“This bill has nothing to do with faith, and it must be condemned.”

Last week, The Division of Child and Family Services in Nevada revised its regulations for perspective foster parents, removing a requirement that stated foster parents are to be free of certain communicable diseases including HIV.