Faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that receive federal grants wouldn’t be forced to place children in same-sex homes under a proposed Trump administration rule that would overturn a rule finalized in the final days of the Obama administration.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the proposed rule on Friday, stating it aligns with all nondiscrimination statutes that Congress has adopted, as well as with Supreme Court decisions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Obama-era rule, finalized in January 2017 – the month Obama left office – prevents federal grants from going to any entity that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Obama rule had a dramatic impact on faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that affirm the biblical definition of marriage.
Christian groups applauded the proposed new rule and said it would allow more children to be placed in homes. Some faith-based agencies had said they could not operate under the Obama rule.
The proposed rule was released on the first day of National Adoption Month.
“Every child deserves a chance to be raised in a loving home,” said Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Zack Pruitt. “There are currently over 400,000 children in the foster care system and 100,000 eligible for adoption, and faith-based adoption and foster care providers play an integral role in serving these vulnerable kids.”
The Obama-era rule, Pruitt said, “discriminated against faith-based providers simply because of their beliefs about marriage.”
“That is not keeping kids first,” Pruitt said. “HHS’s proposed rule to end this discrimination offers hope for children, more options for birth mothers, support for families, and increased flexibility for states seeking to alleviate real human need. We commend the administration for protecting a diversity of providers to ensure the greatest number of children find a permanent, loving family.”
HHS, too, said the proposed rule would benefit children. Adoption and foster care agencies that place children in same-sex homes still would receive grants under the proposed rule.
“Some non-Federal entities have expressed concerns that requiring compliance with certain non-statutory requirements … violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act … or the U.S. Constitution, exceeds the Department’s statutory authority, or reduces the effectiveness of programs, for example, by reducing foster care placements,” the proposed rule states.
The “existence of these complaints and legal actions” indicates that the Obama-era rule “imposed regulatory burden and created a lack of predictability and stability for the Department and stakeholders with respect to these provisions’ viability and enforcement,” HHS said.
Already, HHS was prevented from enforcing the Obama rule in Michigan due to a federal judge’s ruling.
The new rule would amend the Obama-era with new language stating: “It is a public policy requirement of HHS that no person otherwise eligible will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination in the administration of HHS programs and services, to the extent doing so is prohibited by federal statute.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also commended HHS for the proposed rule.
“This new regulation from the Trump administration is a welcome signal that the child-welfare system is about the welfare of children – not proxy culture wars,” Moore said. “The previous administration's policy change excluded faith-based organizations with convictions about the need for a child to have both a mother and a father. The children in our foster system are facing a crisis, as tens of thousands age out of the program each year. Every American ought to be able to come together to solve this problem. Today’s move is a good start in that direction.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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