Adoption and traditional marriage proponents said legislation introduced Monday by Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to prohibit adoption agencies from barring homosexual couples from adopting a child would hinder religious agencies right to religious freedom and lessen the pool of foster families.
Gillibrand’s bill, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, enables states to require adoption agencies to allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples to foster or adopt children in order to receive federal assistance.
“By removing all barriers for LGBT families to serve as foster parents, New York State has increased its foster parent pool by 128,000 prospective parents. This legislation would open thousands of new foster and adoptive homes to children ensuring they are raised in loving families,” she said in statement announcing the bill.
Gillibrand and fellow bill supporters praise the act for seeking to place the estimated 400,000 children currently in the U.S. foster care system in homes.
But Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society Pro-life Law Center, told The Christian Post the law would lessen the pool of foster families because it would penalize faith-based agencies that recruit Christian families.
Breen is currently representing Catholic Charities of Illinois. The adoption agency has been caring for and placing children in homes since 1921 – long before the state began offering adoption services in 1969.
Breen said that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is using the recently passed Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act to “exclude religious entities that object to civil unions.”
Catholic Charities does not allow cohabitating couples – both heterosexual and homosexual-to adopt through its service due its religious beliefs. The state’s decision to cancel contracts with Catholic Charities may cause the agency to close its door to foster care in the state.
Breen said most faith-based foster care groups are reliant on state and federal funds.
If Gillibrand’s law were to pass, Breen said, it would “effectively bar any religious group that [has] sincerely-held religious beliefs about the sanctity of marriage … it would bar them from foster care.”
Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of issues analysis for Focus on the Family affiliate CitizenLink, said, “This bill is a very aggressive approach to mandating that faith-based agencies make a choice between serving children and [upholding] their religious convictions. No religious entity should be force to do that.”
If faith-based agencies choose the latter option and close their doors, Breen said, “It [would restrict] the participation of the foster care agencies under the sponsorship of large religious denominations and thus will decrease the amount of people from those religious denominations involved in foster care and adoption.”
Gillibrand asserted the bill would lift restrictions that keep same-sex couples from adopting, especially in Utah, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and Michigan where there are state bans. She also hopes it will enable LGBT persons to adopt their partner’s children.
Earll countered by noting that most states and adoptive agencies already allow same-sex couples to adopt or foster children.
“In the vast majority [of states, same-sex couple adoption] is already taking place,” she clarified. “What this bill would do would be to further ostracize and remove from caring for children those faith-based organizations that have a religious reason to place children with a married mom and dad.”
Earll summed that the bill is a “serious attack on religious freedom in this country.”
So far, 77 congressmen have co-sponsored the bill.
Correction: Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011:
An article on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, about the Every Child Deserves a Family Act incorrectly reported that 77 senators co-sponsored the bill. In fact, the House version of the bill has been co-sponsored by 77 congressmen.