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Anti-LGBTQ Couple Sues After Foster Care Application Denied

Family acceptance has a strong positive influence on trans children’s emotional and behavioral health.

A Catholic couple in Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) for denying their foster care application over concerns that they would not affirm an LGBTQ child.

The couple is being represented by the right-wing law firm behind several consequential Supreme Court cases — including Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which granted owners of some private businesses the ability to deny their employees access to contraceptive coverage by citing their religious beliefs.

The lawsuit accuses the DCF of religious discrimination for denying the couple’s application based on the couple’s belief that “children should not undergo procedures that attempt to change their God-given sex,” and because they “uphold Catholic beliefs about marriage and sexuality.” The agency requires that people who foster or adopt children “promote the physical, mental and emotional well-being of a child placed in his or her care, including supporting and respecting a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In response to the agency’s questions regarding LGBTQ children, the couple said that “there’s nothing wrong with it, I’m going to love you the same, but I believe you would need to live a chaste life,” adding that they would “want to have a conversation with a child about this.”

LGBTQ youth are greatly overrepresented in the U.S.’s foster system — it’s estimated that roughly one in three young people in foster care identify as LGBTQ. These youth frequently experience bigotry and discrimination in the system, and 78 percent of LGBTQ youth report being removed or running away from their foster placements as a result of anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Because LGBTQ youth are more vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse, conversion therapy, and family rejection, LGBTQ youth in foster care were three times more likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year than their straight, cisgender peers.

Research has repeatedly shown that family acceptance has a significant positive impact on LGBTQ children’s emotional and behavioral health. Trans children report less symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation when their families use their chosen name and pronouns, and trans children whose parents allow them to socially transition report lower rates of anxiety and distress than those whose parents do not.

Recent research by the Trevor Project finds that less than 40 percent of LGBTQ young people consider their home LGBTQ-affirming. But as right-wing lawmakers ramp up an aggressive anti-LGBTQ campaign across the country, familial support appears to be more critical than ever — nearly one in three LGBTQ youths said their mental health was poor most or all of the time due to the recent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills. Forty one percent of LGBTQ young people have reported considering suicide in the past year, while nearly one in five trans and nonbinary young people have attempted suicide.

The lawsuit has been widely covered by the right-wing press, including Fox News, the National Review, and the Washington Examiner. The law firm representing the couple has a record of “pushing the Supreme Court towards more and more extreme positions under the guise of religious liberty,” LGBTQ journalist Evan Urquhart wrote on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.

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