June 15, 2018

WASHINGTON — Reporting released today indicates that the Trump administration is considering a shift in its policy to permit discrimination in state foster and adoption systems.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is weighing a request by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, who has asked the administration to grant a waiver from federal non-discrimination requirements to allow one of its largest providers of child welfare services to discriminate against prospective families who are not protestant Christians.

Under current federal policy, state child welfare agencies and contracted private agencies receiving federal funding may not discriminate based on a number of characteristics including religion and sexual orientation. But should the waiver be granted, HHS would no longer prohibit such discrimination against prospective foster and adoptive parents in federally funded public child welfare programs if the discrimination is based on religious objections of agencies. It could pave the way for discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics.

The Governor’s actions follow legislation introduced in a number of states this year, and passed in Oklahoma and Kansas, permitting child placing agencies to exclude families based on religious objections, which came in response to agencies that opposed making placements with same-sex couples.

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, had the following reaction:

“With this request, the state of South Carolina is asking HHS to green-light discrimination. This waiver would cause children to be denied access to countless qualified families they desperately need, reducing their chances of finding a loving, stable family, because those families are LGBT or don’t adhere to particular Christian beliefs. The Administration should deny this waiver and affirm that it does not value promoting a specific ideological view of family and religion more than the well-being of children in the child welfare system.”

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