For the fifth Congress in a row, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act has been introduced in an attempt to ensure that no child in need of a home is denied one because of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill, sponsored by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would restrict federal funding for states that discriminate in adoption and foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of prospective parents, or on the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth in foster care. A Senate version is expected soon, said Ed Harris, director of communications for Family Equality Council. (A Senate version has been introduced in the past three Congresses; a House version for the past four, plus this one.) Family Equality Council and PFLAG National are co-chairs of the National Every Child Deserves a Family Coalition, which is organizing to gain support for the bills.
There were an estimated 427,910 children in foster care in September 2015, the last date for which we have federal data, and each year, approximately 20,000 age out of care before finding a permanent home. Compare that with the statistic that an estimated two million GLB people are interested in adopting, and the path forward seems clear. (I’m sure plenty of transgender people are interested in adopting, too; I haven’t seen a study on that yet, however.) Family Equality also notes that one in four children in the U.S. is being raised by a single parent (LGBTQ or not). Additionally, LGBTQ youth are over-represented in foster care, and HRC notes, “LGBTQ youth in foster care also face disparities – differences in experiences in care or treatment by the system.”
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act directly confronts the many “religious freedom” laws and bills in several states that say the states cannot take adverse actions against child placement agencies that discriminate because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. It may also conflict with President Trump’s executive order on “religious liberty,” but since the executive order relies on yet-to-be-issued guidance from the attorney general, it remains to be seen how this all might play out.
Still, that’s no reason not to push this bill forward and continue to raise awareness about the many children in need of homes—and the LGBTQ parents who stand ready to provide them.