When Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin were denied the opportunity to apply to be foster parents for a refugee child, the federally funded child welfare agency told them that it was because their relationship did not “mirror the Holy Family.” This week, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Fatma and Bryn.
Religious freedom is fundamental. It gives everyone the right to believe—or not. But it doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate or harm others, especially in taxpayer-funded services. When the child welfare agency discriminated against the married, same-sex couple, it violated religious freedom.
Fatma and Bryn aren’t the ones fighting in court for their right to be parents. Last year, two same-sex couples and one woman who went through the child welfare system challenged a Michigan law that allows taxpayer-funded foster care providers to use religion to justify turning away families who want to provide loving, stable homes to children in care.
These lawsuits come at a time when state legislatures are advancing bills that would allow taxpayer-funded adoption or foster care providers to cite religion to justify discriminating against the kids in their care and the parents who want to provide them homes. In fact, just this week we wrote about Georgia’s SB 375, which passed out of a Senate committee on Tuesday. (If you live in Georgia, you can take action today to fight this bill!)
Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair to put the religious beliefs of government-funded service providers above the best interests of children in foster care.