Federal lawmakers are trying to get legislation passed that would protect LGBTQ children in foster care, and put pressure to end discrimination against LGBTQ couples looking to adopt.
The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act was championed by the late-civil rights icon and congressman, and it’s named in his honor. Currently, federally-funded child welfare agencies are prohibited from discriminating based on race only, but the proposed legislation would extend that to sexual orientation, gender identity, and religious beliefs, among others.
Co-sponsor New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said government needs to ensure a quality and equitable foster system.
“Organizations that receive taxpayer dollars cannot be allowed to discriminate against caring and responsible foster and adoptive parents,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our legislation would end this outrageous discriminatory policy, and help give more children a loving home and create a system that supports the best interest of our children in foster care and adoptive parents alike.”
Schylar Baber leads an adoption advocacy group out of D.C., he saidhe’s seen both the highs and lows of the system when he himself was an LGBTQ child in foster care.
“I was taught that I had a demon inside me, that I was fighting for my soul and that my sexuality was caused by possession,” Baber said of his time in an evangelical foster household. “No matter how much I prayed, I couldn’t pray the gay away.”
Subjected to the pseudo-practice of conversion therapy, Baber eventually found a school teacher who wanted to adopt him. But he was turned away due to another form of discrimination the bill would bar, marital status.
“After about a year of getting to know my teacher, taking lessons, and getting involved in community theater, he asked me to be adopted,” Baber said. “Something that caught me and my abusive foster family off guard. But my teacher was denied adoption because he was a single male and unmarried. I was told I was un-adoptable, and went through several more placements.”
The bill has been introduced in the House several times in past years, but now Gillibrand and other advocates hope to get it through as part of nationwide infrastructure legislation.