July 11, 2018 at 4:50 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
House panel OKs ‘religious freedom’ anti-LGBT adoption amendment

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) introduced an “religious freedom” anti-LGBT adoption amendment. (Photo public domain)

A House committee approved on Wednesday as part of major appropriations legislation an amendment seen to allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny placement into LGBT families over religious objections.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), would bar the federal government and state or localities from denying funds to adoption agencies that have “declined or will decline to provide, facilitate or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs of convictions.”

The measure would empower the secretary of health and human services to withhold 15 percent of federal government funds from state and localities if they penalize adoption agencies for acting on their religious beliefs in terms of child placement.

Although the impact isn’t explicitly stated in the amendment, the measure would essentially bar states and localities from penalizing taxpayer-funded agencies for denying placement into homes with same-sex parents or LGBT homes.

The measure is virtually identical to the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) in the U.S. House and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in the U.S. Senate last year.

The House Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment on Wednesday by a party-line 29-23 vote as part of funding legislation for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services and Education. The only Republican on the committee to vote against the amendment was Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.).

Ian Thompson, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, blasted the House committee for the adopting the amendment on the basis it would anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The ACLU strongly opposes the amendment because it essentially privileges the religious and moral beliefs of providers over the best interest of children who are in their care,” Thompson said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also criticized Republicans in a statement for adopting the amendment, calling it “a sickening new low.”

“House Democrats will fight this disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort  with all our strength,” Pelosi said. “There is no place for bigotry or discrimination in our foster and adoption systems – or in any part of our democracy.”

The amendment is along the lines of new laws in many states enabling taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into homes, including LGBT households, over religious objections. Those laws are in place in Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas.

With same-sex marriage the law of the land, Catholic groups have been spearheading these initiatives, saying adoption agencies will have to close down if they are forced to place children into LGBT homes contrary to their religious beliefs.

Praising the amendment was Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, who called the measure “good news for children, birth moms and adoptive families.”

“It’s sad that this amendment is necessary but faith-based adoption and foster care providers are facing increasing discrimination by state and local governments,” Perkins said. “The federal government must not do the same, and should not fund states who engage in this discriminatory action.”

There are good signs neither the underlying legislation, nor the amendment, would make it to the desk of President Trump. A Senate committee already approved its version of the bill without a similar anti-LGBT amendment, meaning if the bills were conferenced the anti-LGBT amendment would likely be stripped out.

Moreover, in years past, the minibus funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services and Education has never reached the House floor and those programs continued to receive federal funds through omnibus spending legislation, according to the ACLU.

Thompson said it’s unlikely the appropriations bill would ever see the light of day on the House floor, but still urged caution.

“There’s no hard and fast rule that is preventing the Labor-H appropriations bill from coming to the floor, so it definitely could, but if past is any indication, it may not,” Thompson said.

Aderholt’s office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on why he thought introduction of the amendment was necessary.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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