Earlier this week, two congressional Republicans introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which they claim is an effort to shield “adoption and foster care providers” from an “anti-faith bias.” This is a charming bit of doublespeak: The act’s real purpose is to nullify state-level laws that require child welfare services to let gay couples adopt children. In some states, religious adoption agencies have closed up shop rather than allow gay couples to adopt or foster children. According to the act’s sponsors, adoption agencies that take a courageous stand against gay adoption deserve federal protection.
There’s little hope of the bill actually becoming law; Tea Party Republicans in the House should view it as an overreach of federal power and an encroachment on states’ rights, while Senate Democrats surely won’t let it through their chamber. But the act does provide an interesting opportunity to observe the blatantly discriminatory intent behind so many “religious liberty” laws. There’s no real effort to bury the bill’s purpose in orotund encomia to religious freedom. Rather, there’s a refreshing honesty at work here: Some adoption agencies would like to discriminate against gay people, and some Republicans would like to let them.
If you believe that every child deserves a stable home with loving parents, you probably view the grandstanding truculence of these anti-gay agencies to be morally atrocious. 400,000 children are currently in foster care, and thousands of gay couples want to provide them with a home—how could anyone, regardless of personal prejudice, deny a child that opportunity? But if you’re Ryan T. Anderson, co-author of the weirdest, most sex-obsessed anti-gay book ever, your outrage lies on the other side of the equation: Gay-friendly adoption laws don’t spur more adoptions by widening the potential parent pool, Anderson asserts. They prevent adoptions by “forc[ing] faith-based providers” to shut their doors.
When ThinkProgress’ indispensible Zack Ford prodded Anderson on these claims, Anderson doubled down, tweeting, “Why are you holding orphans hostage in your adult sexual culture war?” and “[W]hat gives you the right to impose your morality on them? [A]nd shut down agencies working to help kids?” Here, of course, Anderson has it exactly backward: It is religious groups—not the state—that are shutting down their own agencies rather than allowing gay couples to adopt or foster children. Gay-friendly states aren’t really imposing their morality on agencies; they’re simply preventing agencies from imposing their morality on qualified prospective parents.
Where do these states get the right to insist on gay-friendly adoption policies? Easy—adoption agencies receive a significant amount of taxpayer funds, and plenty of states don’t want their money contributing to discriminatory practices. You might think that conservatives who ballyhoo a state’s right to ban same-sex marriage would also support a state’s right to control how its tax dollars are spent. It seems, however, that for some conservatives, states’ rights only apply so long as a state is trying to restrict gay people’s rights, not expand them.
There’s one last irony worth noting here. The Christian right rails on and on about its pro-child policies, insisting that its opposition to gay marriage arises from a concern for children. But if you look behind the patina, you’ll see that it’s conservatives themselves—not gay people or their allies—who are actually harming children. First, the Christian right imposed a harmful stigma on the otherwise healthy children of gay couples; now they’ve now staked the claim that they would rather keep kids in foster care than let them be adopted out to loving gay parents. Conservatives’ crusade for legalized bigotry, it seems, won’t stop at demeaning gay adults. They’ve now placed children directly in their crosshairs, too.