Ever wonder who’s fact checking the fact-checkers? It’s a timely question in light of a misleading claims alleging that Republicans in Congress are working to “ban” adoptions for same-sex couples.
It may come as a relief that, despite this oft-repeated allegation, Republicans in Congress are actually working toward a win-win scenario, where more children are adopted and placed into foster care, and where adoption providers of every stripe can continue serving their communities with a clean conscience and a whole heart.
One notable version of the claim came from Snopes, which ran a July 14 headline, “Did Republicans Vote to Make It Legal to Ban Gays and Lesbians from Adopting?” The piece went live three days after Rep. Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtGroup launches first national ad campaign to celebrate America's 250th anniversary House Democrats call for paid legal representation in immigration court Mo Brooks expresses interest in running for Shelby's Senate seat MORE, R-Ala., introduced the “Adoption Provider Inclusion Act,” an amendment to a House Appropriations Committee bill meant to keep the maximum number of adoption providers in the game.
While the headline asserted that Republicans are marching toward banning adoptions for same-sex couples, the claim it actually examined and verified hardly resembled that headline.
The actual claim marked as "true" stated: "The Republican majority in the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve an amendment allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny services to LGBTQ families."
While portions of the claim itself are misstated (such as the fact that faith-based adoption providers run primarily on donor funds — not taxpayer dollars), there’s not a syllable in it about a nefarious attempt to “ban gays and lesbians from adopting.”
For that matter, there’s nothing in the amendment that comes close to that description either. The goal of the act is straightforward: to keep the door open for faith-based adoption providers to operate according to their beliefs free from government hostility and punishment.
Citing reaction from the Human Rights Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union, and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE, D-Calif., the act was depicted as just one more dire harbinger that the end is nigh. While the ACLU complained that the act “privileges” religious liberty (which some might call the hallmark of the First Amendment itself), Pelosi, for her part, decried the act as “deeply immoral and profoundly offensive,” vowing to lead her party to oppose it “with all our strength.”
The LGBTQ community is “still reeling,” the piece points out, from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision this June in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found that the government was wrong to punish Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips for peacefully living out his beliefs about marriage.
The unstated irony is that in Masterpiece, the government — not the Christian cake designer — was the aggressor.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy pointed out the state-appointed Civil Rights Commission had betrayed its trust by publicly comparing Phillips’ belief-based decision to decline to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding with the ideologies fueling slavery and the Holocaust.
“This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law — a law that protects against discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation,” Justice Kennedy wrote.
As was the case in Masterpiece, it’s state and local governments that have been on the warpath against faith-based adoption providers for over a decade. It’s the threat of government punishment that the act sets out to stop, both for the sake of religious freedom and — more pressingly — for children waiting to be adopted or placed in foster care.
Aderholt’s amendment isn’t based on a hypothetical concern, but a real conflict causing thousands of children to keep waiting for an adoption family because of politicians who prioritize ideological conformity over the welfare of children.
Since 2006, faith-based providers have been forced out of adoptions and foster care services by local governments in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Massachusetts, and Illinois. More recently, Philadelphia cut ties with Catholic Social Services, ending a 50-year relationship between the two entities over the city’s insistence that the charity comply with its stance on same-sex marriage and adoption.
Meanwhile, the ACLU is suing the state of Michigan after it enacted a law protecting the freedom of child welfare providers to operate consistent with their beliefs. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit Michigan from working with faith-based agencies that believe children are best raised in homes with a mother and father.
With over 400,000 children in the foster care system, and the ongoing opioid epidemic accelerating the problem every day, the need for adoption and foster care providers of every stripe has never been more desperate. That the Human Rights Coalition and the ACLU — not to mention certain factions of the Democratic Party — are willing to eliminate adoption providers from the field is not just alarming, it’s unconscionable.
The hyperbole and fallacies being callously thrown around by opponents of the Adoption Provider Act aren’t just a disservice to civil discourse, it’s a move that makes it harder and harder for children to ever find a home.
Matt Sharp is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit group working to defend religious freedom.