For the past decade, activists have used state governments and the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage to give faith-based adoption agencies an ultimatum: Comply with politically correct views on sexuality and marriage or shut down. We saw this recently when Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in Texas to try to force a Catholic agency to place refugee children with a same-sex couple. In Georgia, every Democrat in the state senate opposed a bill that would protect the ability of faith-based agencies to follow their belief that every child deserves a mom and a dad.
In Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and Washington, D.C., liberal groups have successfully pressured government authorities to require faith-based agencies to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs and place children in same-sex households. In response, seven states — Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia — have passed legislation to prevent religious discrimination against faith-based adoption agencies. Members of Congress have introduced a bill to accomplish the same objective at the federal level.
In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to overturn conscience protections for faith-based adoption agencies. To reach the adoption agency that prefers to place children with married moms and dads, the lesbian plaintiffs had to drive past at least two other adoption agencies that would have worked with them.
Same-sex couples have abundant options to foster and adopt. Every state in the country allows fostering or adoption by same-sex couples. As one LGBT advocacy group has documented, there are no states where same-sex couples face legal restrictions when petitioning for fostering, joint adoption, or stepparent or second-parent adoption.
Most private adoption agencies, as well as all public agencies in America, are willing to place children in same-sex households. The number of adoptions by same-sex couples has more than tripled from 6,500 couples in 2000, to 22,000 in 2010. And almost 40 percent of all adoption agencies, and 83 percent of public agencies, report that they have made at least one adoption placement with an LGBT person. Same-sex couples adopt and foster and are not prevented from doing so by the continued existence of adoption agencies that prefer to place kids with married moms and dads.
Faith-based adoption agencies that follow their religious beliefs have a high level of success in placing older and disabled children. They also provide services for vulnerable women seeking help with unplanned pregnancies. Moreover, some women facing an unplanned pregnancy want their child to be raised by a married man and woman. A birth mother should have the freedom to work with an agency that honors her preferences and shares her values.
Likewise, many prospective adoptive and foster parents are motivated by their faith to take a child into their home. They could find themselves less encouraged to take on that challenge if faith-based agencies were shut down. Ironically, one activist who opposes the bill to protect faith-based adoption agencies in Georgia argues that “we should be getting every type of family adopting or fostering, not limiting that.” Limiting adoption and fostering is precisely what shuttering faith-based adoption agencies would do. The Left’s policy on adoption and foster care would add no parents to the system but could drive many away.
The shortage of foster-care parents for more than 400,000 children on the waiting list is dire, and the drug crisis is driving even more kids into the system. Some states resort to having children sleep in offices and motels. Without faith-based agencies and faith communities, there is no end in sight to this crisis. The dropout rate for prospective foster parents who work directly with the state is 80 percent in the first two years. Faith-based parents are far more likely to be among the 20 percent who stick with the goal of adopting a child, adoption experts say.
The demand for strict conformity to a single, contested view of marriage and family should never override the interests of children in need. They deserve every option for finding a forever family. Federal action that allows faith-based adoption agencies to operate according to their beliefs will keep kids first.
This piece originally appeared in The National Review