Phoenix, Arizona- Last night, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1399 into law, which allows third-party child welfare agencies to operate as government contractors and provide taxpayer-funded services, including adoption, foster care and family reunification, to discriminate in the provision of those services on the basis of religion. Discrimination based on religion opens the door to discrimination against many individuals and families, including LGBTQ+ individuals and same-sex families, or any other individual or family that does not conform to the professed religious expectations of the third-party agency. Other states with such laws have seen litigation when, as in South Carolina, an evangelical christian agency refused to work with the Catholics.
Governor Ducey has been unable to maintain her or his promise to be “unapologetically pro-adoption,” a commitment he made in 2015 after changing a policy that prevented legally married same-sex couples from adopting or co-parenting. Any policy that limits the pool of qualified foster and adoptive parents due to discrimination is manifestly anti-adoption. This is the third anti-LGBTQ+ bill Governor Ducey has signed this week to score political points with the far-right base at the expense of vulnerable children. Last Wednesday, he signed legislation that will prevent transgender youth from receiving health care that may be medically necessary, as well as legislation that will prohibit transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity.
Arizona is experiencing a shortage of licensed foster homes for children in foster care: The number of homes offering a foster home for Arizona children is already down 11% compared to last year and 33% compared to 2017. Allowing agencies to openly discriminate against parenting based on factors unrelated to their parenting qualifications, including their sexual orientation or gender identity, will deepen this crisis and deny more children the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment. and welcoming. To learn more about licensing laws to discriminate in child welfare services, visit HRC’s 2020 publication on the topic. here.
Arizona State Director of the Human Rights Campaign, Bridget Sharpe, issued the following statement in reaction to Governor Ducey’s signing of SB 1399:
“Gov. Ducey has turned his back on his reputation as a supposed moderate: He has now signed three bills that attack the LGBTQ+ community and have a particular impact on LGBTQ+ youth. Whether targeting transgender kids who play sports, transgender kids trying to access health care, or LGBTQ+ youth who are overrepresented in the child welfare system, Governor Ducey has betrayed those kids every step of the way. All children should have the opportunity to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. That’s why it’s so outrageous that Governor Ducey has signed legislation that will make it more difficult to place needy children with qualified, vetted parents who can provide them with the support they need. He is making it more difficult for children, including LGBTQ+ children, to find a home by allowing government contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion when performing taxpayer-funded services. Who pays the price? For the third time in a week, it’s the already vulnerable children of Arizona. He shows no shame.”
Last month, the Arizona Human Rights Campaign and more than a dozen other organizations that support the well-being of children and families in Arizona and nationally, wrote a letter to members of the Arizona House of Representatives expressing their strong opposition to the bill. The organizations emphasized how similar legislation in other states resulted in agencies turning away potential fathers.
“In states like Tennessee and South Carolina that, through laws or executive orders like SB1399, have allowed agencies to use religious criteria, Jewish, Catholic, Unitarian and same-sex married couples have been turned away because they do not meet a particular requirement. the agency’s religious litmus test,” the letter says.
The letter also notes that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care and that Arizona needs to increase affirmative family placements. For more information on laws like this one that create a license to discriminate in child welfare services, see HRC’s 2020 publication on the topic. here.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest civil rights organization in the United States working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are accepted as full members of society at home, at work, and in all communities..