Illinois and California, among other states, require that private adoption agencies receiving state funds not discriminate against same-sex couples wishing to adopt. As a result, some Catholic adoption agencies in both states, refusing to place children with same-sex couples, have had to shut their doors. Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee approved a measure that would preserve the right of religious adoption agencies to operate according to their consciences and still receive government funding. Opponents of the measure have claimed that it legitimizes discrimination and would even deny “tens of thousands of vulnerable children the opportunity to find a loving and safe home.” Brad Polumbo responds:
The amendment won’t stop any lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual person from adopting a child—but it will enable religious child-welfare agencies to help needy kids find a home. Religious people should be able to live by their convictions. . . . Private adoption agencies have First Amendment rights, and their freedom of conscience should be respected, even when their beliefs are politically incorrect or downright discriminatory. Allowing a small number of religious agencies to operate within their belief system doesn’t restrict the ability of gay Americans to adopt, because there are LGBT-friendly agencies all across the country, and there’s no shortage of kids looking for new families.
Government figures reveal that roughly 440,000 children live in foster-care programs while waiting for adoption. On average, it takes two years for a child to be adopted. Toddlers and babies usually are adopted sooner than older children. Opponents of the GOP’s religious-freedom initiative point to the high number of children in foster care and argue that by letting adoption agencies decline same-sex couples, the GOP denies at-risk children the chance to find a loving home. . . .
With hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care, waiting to be adopted, it’s hard to see how rules that shut down child-welfare agencies make sense. The GOP’s new rule wouldn’t magically erase the countless other adoption agencies open to prospective LGBT parents, but it would permit more Christian agencies to operate, thereby increasing our ability to find homes for disadvantaged children.
Ian Thompson of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticizes the religious-freedom amendment on different grounds. Many of the adoption providers in question receive taxpayer dollars. For them to turn away same-sex couples, Thompson argues, would be a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause, which prohibits discrimination by government. . . . That is a standard we apply almost nowhere else. When viewed in context, the idea that taxpayer funding strips a private organization of its First Amendment right [to religious freedom] is absurd.