Are religious exemptions to discrimination laws, in areas like foster care, adoption, higher education, and government contract compliance, an “assault on LGBTQ rights”? Cato has now reprinted my comments last month for a House Oversight Committee hearing on that subject. The hearing itself (at which I was not a witness) can be viewed here.
New York bans the operation of adoption agencies that will not serve customers of all sexual and gender orientations and conditions of wedlock, whether or not such agencies receive any public funds or contracts. New Hope Family Services, a ministry that works with expectant mothers to place their newborns, has agreed to stop accepting new clients and now the question is whether it can go on servicing pending and completed placements. New York state is arguing no, but a Second Circuit panel of Judges José Cabranes, Reena Raggi, and Edward Korman has granted a preliminary injunction pending consideration of the agency’s First Amendment claims: “the strong public interest pertaining to adoption services, i.e., the welfare of children, both those already adopted and those awaiting adoption, is best served by granting rather than denying the requested injunction.” [ruling in New Hope Family Services v. Poole; Emma Folts/Daily Orange, Julie McMahon/Syracuse.com, Nicole Russell, Washington Examiner quoting me; my related WSJ piece on recent Western District of Michigan decision]
A new HHS plan to rescind LGBT bias rules would back the feds away from one of the most hotly contested frontiers of the culture wars, the role of religious agencies in foster care and adoption. I explain in a new Cato post.
A federal judge in Michigan has ruled for a Catholic foster-care program, but religious objectors may find it a victory built on sand. I’m in the online Wall Street Journal today with an opinion piece explaining why. Related on Judge Robert Jonker’s opinion in Buck v. Gordon, in which he rebuked Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel [Sue Ellen Browder, National Catholic Register] and on Fulton v. Philadelphia [Mark Rienzi](and mentions: New York Post, Kathryn Lopez/National Review)
Thank you to Naomi Riley for including me in her WSJ piece Thursday on a truly bad New York scheme to empower birthparents whose parental rights have been terminated to petition nonetheless for court-ordered visitation. The quotes from me:
In many cases adoptive parents do arrange with birthparents for some kind of contact after an adoption is completed. “Some adoptive parents are glad to agree to those conditions, and that’s fine for them. Where they have not, it is a very bad idea to adopt a presumption of enforcing such a long-term obligation on unwilling adopters,” notes Walter Olson, an adoptive parent and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
The legislation presents serious logistical concerns as well. What if an adoptive family wants to move across the country? Would the courts be able to prevent them? “Adoptive families are real families and deserve the full rights of other such families unless they have agreed to some other arrangement,” says Mr. Olson.
In a letter to Gov. Cuomo opposing the bill, the group New York Attorneys for Adoption and Family Formation explained that the law may also violate the due-process rights of adoptive parents. In 2000, they point out, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Washington state law.
Both houses of the New York legislature have now passed the bill, which is supported by legal services groups like the Legal Aid Society of New York City but opposed by the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York (AFFCNY), the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), “which represents nonprofit foster care agencies statewide, and the New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA), which represents county government child welfare directors.” [Michael Fitzgerald, Chronicle of Social Change] AFFCNY has more on its opposition here, and notes: “Adoptive families would have no choice but to hire and pay for legal representation for themselves.”
“For Congress to impose a racialized and non-neutral regime on parents and children is not only unwise and unfair, but unconstitutional.” The Cato Institute has joined an amicus brief challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in the Fifth Circuit case of Brackeen v. Bernhard. I’ve got more details in a new post at Cato at Liberty. Earlier on ICWA here.
I’ve posted before about our July Cato conference on adoption, pluralism, and children’s interests. Now Cato’s bimonthly Policy Report has published highlights of the panel on anti-discrimination law and religious agencies, with speakers including Stephanie Barclay of BYU, Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign, Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois, and me.
One of my comments about pluralism and freedom in the system: “When I began reading about adoption, I realized for about the umpteenth time how glad I was to live in America.” Not that the system isn’t full of problems: on the grueling 26-year litigation in the New York City foster care case, Wilder v. Bernstein, see this 2011 piece of mine.
Our September 20 Cato legal panel on the Indian Child Welfare Act (more) was more timely than I could have imagined. In the federal case of Brackeen v. Zinke, discussed on the panel, Judge Ryan O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas on October 4 declared major provisions of ICWA unconstitutional on multiple grounds including equal protection and anti-commandeering doctrine. More: Timothy Sandefur; Matthew Fletcher, TurtleTalk; Emma Platoff, Texas Tribune; John Kelly, Chronicle of Social Change.
Appeal is likely. Just before the decision, the public-radio-associated program Native America Calling had a program showcasing tribal advocates’ views. I’ve written about the Act, including its constitutional and moral infirmities, here and, as part of a Cato Unbound symposium, here.
“Passed in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was intended to stop abusive practices by state and federal officials, who often removed Native American children from their families without sufficient justification. But today, ICWA is the subject of litigation in federal and state courts by challengers who argue that it imposes race-based restrictions on adoption and makes it harder for state officials to protect Native American children against abuse and neglect.”
On September 20 I moderated a Cato discussion of recent developments and upcoming challenges to ICWA, presented by Timothy Sandefur, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute and author of Escaping the ICWA Penalty Box; Matthew McGill, attorney for plaintiffs in Brackeen v. Zinke, a major ICWA lawsuit under way in Texas; and Charles Rothfeld, who represented the birth father in the important ICWA case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. Earlier on ICWA here.