Catholic bishops allow lesbian to adopt child after trial

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A single lesbian will be allowed to adopt a child after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) left a lawsuit alleging discrimination unchallenged, suggesting single LGBTQ adults may be able to foster fostering by through Catholic organizations, while same-sex couples in general always forbidden.

decision comes in response to a complaint by Tennessee resident Kelly Easter alleging that a federal foster care program administered by the USCCB discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. Easter filed a lawsuit in October after Michigan-based Bethany Christian Services, a USCCB subrecipient, allegedly told her the bishops’ conference wouldn’t let her apply to foster a refugee child.

In a February letter to Bethany, obtained by The Washington Post, the USCCB called the dispute a misunderstanding and said it did not bar single gay men from becoming foster parents because of their sexual orientation. Easter dropped his lawsuit in June, as previously reported by Baptist News Global.

The question of whether Catholic foster care organizations can refuse to partner with LGBTQ people shot into the spotlight last year, when the Supreme Court ruled that Philadelphia was wrong to stop contracting with Catholic Social Services for his refusal to work with people of the same sex. couples. If the USCCB will reverse his opposition letting same-sex couples foster children remains undetermined, as does whether Easter could still foster children if she becomes a partner.

“There’s this unanswered question: So if she gets married, are you going to turn around and take the kid and stop working with her?” said Kenneth Upton, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who represents Easter. “I don’t know what the USCCB’s response would be to that.”

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The bishops’ conference declined a request for an interview but reiterated in a statement that the court case was “motivated by a misunderstanding”. He said church teaching does not prohibit placing a child with only one adult, regardless of that person’s sexual orientation.

“This is neither a ‘change’ in USCCB’s position, nor a change in Church teaching,” wrote Chieko Noguchi, spokesperson for the bishops’ conference.

Easter first started thinking about fostering in 2020 when she was struck by media coverage of unaccompanied refugee children arriving in the United States, according to his trial filed in the US District Court in DC She contacted the Refugee Office of the Department of Health and Human Services and was referred to Bethany, who told her she was bound by a USCCB policy prohibiting homosexuals to become foster families.

When Easter read a few months later than Bethany would start serving LGBTQ couples, she contacted the organization again. He told her she still couldn’t participate through Bethany’s office near her home because that location was funded by the USCCB, which upheld its ban, the lawsuit says. Although she could participate through another office with a different source of funding, that location was not viable with her job as a real estate agent, she says in the lawsuit.

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Four months after Easter sued HHS in October, the USCCB sent the letter saying it wouldn’t stop him from fostering a child.

“In reality, neither the religious beliefs of the USCCB nor its subgrant agreement with BCS prohibits a single person of homosexual orientation from serving as an adoptive parent because of their orientation,” wrote William Canny, Director USCCB Executive for Migration and Refugees. services.

Easter’s attorneys dismissed his case without prejudice, which Upton said means they could refile if circumstances change. Easter is applying to become a foster parent through Bethany, Upton said.

“It’s something she’s wanted to do for a few years, so it was a journey for her to get here, and she’s thrilled to have completed or nearly completed the process,” he said. “It’s easy to overlook individual stories when you start talking about impact more broadly.”

This impact may become clearer through a separate case in Texas, where Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, an affiliate of the USCCB, allegedly told two married professors at Texas A&M University that they could not be adoptive parents because their family did not “reflect the Holy Family”. The lawsuit filed by Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin against HHS and USCCB could provide insight into whether the bishops’ conference will continue to block same-sex couples from fostering.

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