The Trump administration is proposing a rule that would allow faith-based foster care and adoption groups to exclude LGBT parents.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the proposal Friday, citing concerns about religious freedom.
The rule would allow organizations that deny LGBT parents adoption rights to continue getting federal funding, rolling back an Obama-era rule that included sexual orientation as a protected trait under anti-discrimination protections.
The proposed rule was first reported by The Associated Press.
"HHS is committed to fully enforcing the civil rights laws passed by Congress. The proposed rule would better align its grants regulations with federal statutes, eliminating regulatory burden, including burden on the free exercise of religion," the agency said in a statement.
"HHS is affirming that it will comply with all applicable Supreme Court decisions in administering its grants programs," it added.
The agency said it had heard concerns that language adopted by the Obama administration violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Constitution and exceeded the department's authority.
Some faith-based groups commended the proposed rule, but other organizations criticized it, calling it discriminatory.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said it welcomed the move, arguing the 2016 regulation “threatened to shut out faith-based social service providers” by “infringing on religious freedom.”
The Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, said that under the proposed rule charities would no longer have to have to choose between “abandoning their faith or abandoning homeless children,” according to AP.
LGBT groups, though, strongly rebuked the proposed change to the Obama-era regulation.
Lambda Legal called it “taxpayer-funded discrimination” and said children will be the ones who feel the brunt of the damage.
“The impact of this rule is enormous. One group that will be significantly harmed by this is kids in foster care,” the group tweeted. “When qualified families are turned away from fostering because they are #LGBTQ or the ‘wrong’ religion, kids lose out on loving homes.”
Julie Kruse, the director of federal policy at Family Equality, said the rule limits the “pool of loving homes available to America’s 440,000 foster children.”
The White House dismissed criticism that the rule is discriminatory and bars LGBT people from adopting.
“LGBT people can still adopt and that will not change,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told The Hill.
“The Administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule that was proposed in the 12’o clock hour of the last administration that jeopardizes the ability of faith-based providers to continue serving their communities. The Federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith,” Deere added.