Idaho passes law barring discrimination against adoptive parents for religious reasons

Unsplash/Guillaume de Germain
Unsplash/Guillaume de Germain

Idaho has passed a law that prohibits the state from discriminating against adoption agencies or parents seeking to adopt on the basis of their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Gov. Brad Little signed House Bill 578 into law on Monday, not long after the proposed legislation overwhelmingly passed both houses of the state Legislature. The law is slated to take effect in July.

“The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person that advertises, provides, or facilitates adoption or foster care services wholly or partially on the basis that the person has provided or declined to provide any adoption or foster care service or related service based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief,” the new law states, in part.

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“The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person who the state grants custody of a foster or adoptive child wholly or partially on the basis that the person guides, instructs, or raises a child, or intends to guide, instruct, or raise a child, based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Greg Chafuen, whose organization has successfully argued religious freedom cases before the United States Supreme Court, celebrated the law's passage.

“We applaud Idaho for prioritizing the well-being of kids by prohibiting state and local government officials from discriminating against adoption and foster care providers and parents simply because of their religious beliefs and moral convictions,” said Chafuen in a statement released Monday.

“This law helps children benefit from as many adoption and foster care agencies as possible, faith- and non-faith-based alike.”

HB 578 was first introduced in February, passing the Idaho House in a vote of 64-4-2 and then the Idaho Senate by a vote of 32-2-1 before being signed by the governor.

Amy Dundun of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho testified against the bill while it was still making its way through the state Legislature, arguing that it could harm LGBT minors.

“Our concern is about the treatment of LGBTQ kids in particular who once placed in a foster care situation might be forced to undergo certain medical treatments. ... I'm thinking conversion therapy, things like that that may be harmful to the child,” stated Dundun, as reported by CBS 2.

Idaho’s law is passed at a time when Christians in other states have run afoul of measures requiring them to affirm the LGBT identity of kids that they might adopt.

Last year, with the help of the ADF, Jessica Bates of Oregon sued state officials over a rule mandating that adoptive parents affirm the sexual orientation and gender identity of an LGBT-identified child.

U.S. District Judge Adrienne Nelson denied Bates a preliminary injunction, however, arguing that the rules apply to people regardless of religion and do not stop them from practicing their faith.

“Indeed, it appears that the rationale behind why an applicant would be unable to accommodate a child’s LGBTQ+ identities is irrelevant,” wrote Nelson, as reported by the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

“The only relevant inquiry is the applicant’s willingness and ability, not their reasoning. Plaintiff has not shown that the government is endorsing secular viewpoints over religious viewpoints in its application of the rule.” 

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