The largest Protestant adoption and foster agency in the country has decided to open up its services to LGBTQ parents nationwide, a win for same-sex couples as several religious agencies have declined them services in the past, the company announced to staff Monday.
Chris Palusky, the president and chief executive of Bethany Christian Services, informed staff of the evangelical organization that the change would go into effect immediately, according to an email obtained by The New York Times. The adjustment comes as several cities and states have mandated that adoption agencies accept same-sex parents in order to receive government funding.
“We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today,” Palusky said in the announcement. “We’re taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where all are welcome.”
Previously, the Michigan-based organization in most states referred LGBTQ parents to different agencies, although the process was not official, Bethany leaders told the Times.
A lesbian Philadelphia couple’s story of being referred to a different agency in 2018 sparked outrage, leading the city to suspend contracts with Bethany’s local branch and another agency Catholic Social Services. Bethany later complied with the city’s requirements, while Catholic Social Services took the case to court, prompting the Supreme Court to hear arguments in November.
The following year, the agency took a similar position in Michigan after the state declared it wouldn’t fund agencies that didn’t open up adoptions to LGBTQ parents. Bethany branches in 12 states allowed LGBTQ families to adopt as of late 2020, according to the Times.
Bethany’s national board voted in January to approve an inclusivity resolution that removed its previous statement from 2007 that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.”
The new policy does not directly mention LGBTQ parents but says, “Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.”
Bethany intends to provide training to all employees in the coming months including at its locations where employees have not worked with LGBTQ parents.
"These days, families look a lot different than they did when we started," Nate Bult, the senior vice president of public and government affairs, said in a statement. "And Bethany is committed to welcoming and serving all of them."
Adoption is more prevalent among the LGBTQ community with more than 20 percent of same-sex couples with children having an adopted child, while 3 percent of straight couples said the same, according to a 2016 report.
Updated at 4:23 p.m.