Some Conservatives Would Rather Keep Kids in Foster Care Than Let Gays Adopt Them

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Aug. 1 2014 1:36 PM

Some Conservatives Would Rather Keep Kids in Foster Care Than Let Gays Adopt Them

Conservatives are courageously fighting to protect orphaned children from loving gay parents.

Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Earlier this week, two congressional Republicans introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which they claim is an effort to shield “adoption and foster care providers” from an “anti-faith bias.” This is a charming bit of doublespeak: The act’s real purpose is to nullify state-level laws that require child welfare services to let gay couples adopt children. In some states, religious adoption agencies have closed up shop rather than allow gay couples to adopt or foster children. According to the act’s sponsors, adoption agencies that take a courageous stand against gay adoption deserve federal protection.

There’s little hope of the bill actually becoming law; Tea Party Republicans in the House should view it as an overreach of federal power and an encroachment on states’ rights, while Senate Democrats surely won’t let it through their chamber. But the act does provide an interesting opportunity to observe the blatantly discriminatory intent behind so many “religious liberty” laws. There’s no real effort to bury the bill’s purpose in orotund encomia to religious freedom. Rather, there’s a refreshing honesty at work here: Some adoption agencies would like to discriminate against gay people, and some Republicans would like to let them.


If you believe that every child deserves a stable home with loving parents, you probably view the grandstanding truculence of these anti-gay agencies to be morally atrocious. 400,000 children are currently in foster care, and thousands of gay couples want to provide them with a home—how could anyone, regardless of personal prejudice, deny a child that opportunity? But if you’re Ryan T. Anderson, co-author of the weirdest, most sex-obsessed anti-gay book ever, your outrage lies on the other side of the equation: Gay-friendly adoption laws don’t spur more adoptions by widening the potential parent pool, Anderson asserts. They prevent adoptions by “forc[ing] faith-based providers” to shut their doors.

When ThinkProgress’ indispensible Zack Ford prodded Anderson on these claims, Anderson doubled down, tweeting, “Why are you holding orphans hostage in your adult sexual culture war?” and “[W]hat gives you the right to impose your morality on them? [A]nd shut down agencies working to help kids?” Here, of course, Anderson has it exactly backward: It is religious groups—not the state—that are shutting down their own agencies rather than allowing gay couples to adopt or foster children. Gay-friendly states aren’t really imposing their morality on agencies; they’re simply preventing agencies from imposing their morality on qualified prospective parents.

Where do these states get the right to insist on gay-friendly adoption policies? Easy—adoption agencies receive a significant amount of taxpayer funds, and plenty of states don’t want their money contributing to discriminatory practices. You might think that conservatives who ballyhoo a state’s right to ban same-sex marriage would also support a state’s right to control how its tax dollars are spent. It seems, however, that for some conservatives, states’ rights only apply so long as a state is trying to restrict gay people’s rights, not expand them.

There’s one last irony worth noting here. The Christian right rails on and on about its pro-child policies, insisting that its opposition to gay marriage arises from a concern for children. But if you look behind the patina, you’ll see that it’s conservatives themselves—not gay people or their allies—who are actually harming children. First, the Christian right imposed a harmful stigma on the otherwise healthy children of gay couples; now they’ve now staked the claim that they would rather keep kids in foster care than let them be adopted out to loving gay parents. Conservatives’ crusade for legalized bigotry, it seems, won’t stop at demeaning gay adults. They’ve now placed children directly in their crosshairs, too. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.