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Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy July 24, 2018

Did Republicans vote to make it legal nationwide to ban same-sex couples from adopting?

A story drawing eyeballs on social media said Republicans approved a measure that, if implemented, would allow child welfare providers to deny same-sex couples seeking to adopt.

"Republicans vote to make it legal nationwide to ban gays and lesbians from adopting," said a July 12, 2018, headline from LGBTQ Nation, an online magazine.

The headline choice leaves out important details that could give readers the wrong impression. The amendment would not establish a nationwide ban making it impossible for same-sex couples to adopt.

Instead, it would allow individual child welfare providers to create their own adoption criteria — a change that would increase the potential for discrimination against gays and lesbians but would not constitute an outright ban nationwide.

And the reference to "Republicans" refers to one House committee. The proposal is not yet law. 

Here's what happened.

The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted on a measure related to adoption by same-sex couples July 11 during a markup of a funding bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., introduced an amendment prohibiting the federal government, or any state or local entity receiving federal funds, from taking action against child welfare providers that refuse to provide services to certain customers due to "sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions."

If installed, the Aderholt amendment would enable child welfare providers to discriminate when recruiting adoptive parents, promoting and facilitating adoptions, and supporting adoptive families.

In a public statement, Aderholt made specific reference to child welfare providers that turn down same-sex families hoping to adopt.

"Several states and localities across the country are not allowing religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services, to operate child welfare agencies," Aderholt said. "The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with same-sex couples."

He added: "The amendment I introduced seeks to prevent these governments from discriminating against child welfare providers on the basis that the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions."

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Aderholt’s amendment also includes language requiring HHS to withhold 15 percent of federal funds allocated for child welfare services from states and localities that do take action against providers that refuse services on the basis of religious beliefs.

The amendment was approved by a vote of 29 to 23, with all 22 Democrats and one Republican voting to strike it. Several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have voiced disapproval for the amendment, calling it a "license to discriminate."

Bil Browning, managing editor at LGBTQ Nation, said the amendment is part of a larger trend.

"This year alone, Kansas, Georgia and Oklahoma have passed legislation that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples," Browning said. "In Kansas and Oklahoma, the Republican governors signed the legislation into law."

Still, the full funding bill will have to pass both the House and Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump before the amendment will enter into effect.

Other headlines about what happened were more accurate. CNN wrote, for instance, "Adoption agencies could refuse same-sex couples under measure OK'd by House panel."

Our ruling

A headline said, "Republicans vote to make it legal nationwide to ban gays and lesbians from adopting."

The amendment is not an absolute ban on same-sex adoption, despite the headline's implication for casual readers.

Republicans in a House committee approved an amendment that would make it illegal nationwide for states and localities to punish child welfare providers that refuse to place children with same-sex couples because of religious beliefs or moral convictions. But it has not yet been taken up by either chamber of Congress.

Theoretically, the amendment would allow child welfare providers to implement official or de facto bans on same-sex adoption without fear of retribution. At the same time, states and localities could also choose to continue taking action against discriminating child welfare providers in spite of a 15 percent cut to their federal funding.

LGBTQ Nation’s claim that the amendment would make it "legal nationwide to ban gays and lesbians from adopting" is therefore slightly misleading, because the full effect of the amendment would depend on the responses of individual states and localities, as well as the number of agencies that elect to discriminate in their provision of services. 

We rate this statement Half True.

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"Republicans vote to make it legal nationwide to ban gays and lesbians from adopting."
in a blog
Thursday, July 12, 2018

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