Congress just advanced a bill with a rider that would let adoption agencies and state-run foster programs continue to receive federal funds if they discriminate against LGBTQ parents because of their religious beliefs. As Kevin Matthews recently noted on Care2, this kind of law is unpopular on its own, so Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt sneakily attached it to a funding bill for government social programs.
Same-sex couples nationwide have only been allowed to adopt kids for a few years. Passing marriage equality on a federal level helped, but some states held on to LGBTQ adoption bans until the Supreme Court struck down a Mississippi law in 2016.
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So, why are we having the same conversation again today?
The so-called Aderholt Amendment continues a long tradition of justifying discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.
As the Washington Post notes, so-called religious freedom laws have been on the books for decades. Vice President Mike Pence came under fire for the policies he pushed as the former governor of Indiana, but the United States started spelling out protections to guarantee citizens their First Amendment “free exercise of religion” in the 1960s.
At that time, the Supreme Court found that a woman should still get unemployment benefits after she was fired for not working on Saturdays because her faith prohibited it.
Religious groups’ control over laws has varied ever since. In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which made it easier to challenge laws based on religious reasons.
Some landlords tried to use the law to justify not renting to unmarried couples, for instance. Courts eventually struck down the act, and attempts to replace it on a federal level failed.
States maintained similar laws, but they were rarely enforced until recently.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that religious-run businesses like Hobby Lobby could deny workers insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act. A handful of states passed new “religious freedom” laws in response.
More recently, a homophobic Colorado baker won a case in which he refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. It’s time to end this kind of discrimination.