Mike Kelly, United States Representative for Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district, introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017 on April 4, 2017. Kelly was also credited with introducing both the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2015 and Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014, but neither of those two bills were enacted.
Less than one week after Kelly introduced his bill in the House, three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) authored letters of support to Representative Kelly and Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who introduced the bill in the Senate. “The Act prevents the federal government and states that receive federal funds for child welfare services from excluding child welfare providers who believe that children deserve to be placed with a married mother and father,” wrote Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
As introduced, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017 identifies its purposes as follows:
(1) To prohibit governmental entities from discriminating or taking an adverse action against a child welfare service provider on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child welfare service that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with the sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions of the provider.
(2) To protect child welfare service providers’ exercise of religion and to ensure that governmental entities will not be able to force those providers, either directly or indirectly, to discontinue all or some of their child welfare services because they decline to provide a child welfare service that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.
(3) To provide relief to child welfare service providers whose rights have been violated.
While the bill’s text does not reference same-sex couple or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) persons, the bill does specifically identify Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and the District of Columbia as being states that “refused to contract with religious organizations that are unable, due to sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions, to provide a child welfare service that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with those beliefs or convictions; and that refusal has forced many religious organizations to end their long and distinguished history of excellence in the provision of child welfare services.” Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and the District of Columbia also happen to be four jurisdictions the USCCB referenced in a 2014 release discussing its decision to end adoption services when forced to place children with persons in same-sex relationships as foster or adoptive parents.
West Chester Lawyer for Gay Adoption
While legislation such as the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act is presented as defending religious liberty, it is not hard to understand why many LGBTQ rights advocates are fearful about the possible repercussions if passed. In addition to the countless same-sex couples who could be discriminated against, hundreds of thousands of children currently in foster care could be deprived of a possible loving and happy home.
Same-sex couples in Pennsylvania have seen continued recognition of their rights thus far in the 21st century. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s landmark decision in In Re Adoption of R.B.F. & R.C.F., 803 A.2d 1195 (Pa. 2002) held that a person could adopt the legal child of his or her unmarried partner without the first parent terminating his or her parental rights, allowing for second-parent adoptions for LGBTQ couples. In 2014, U.S. District Court in Harrisburg made same-sex marriage legal in the Commonwealth, and the U.S. Supreme Court made it a constitutional right the following year.
If you and your partner are hoping to adopt a child and have concerns about difficulties you could face as an LGBTQ couple, it is in your best interest to make sure that you are working with a compassionate and experienced family law attorney. Ciccarelli Law Offices represents same-sex couples all over the greater West Chester area and can help guide you through the adoption process.