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The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

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“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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National Ad Challenging Adoption Discrimination Laws Rejected by Fox News as “Too Powerful”

Ad Coincides with ACLU’s Landmark Lawsuit Challenging Adoption Discrimination in Michigan

Washington, D.C., September 20, 2017 — As the American Civil Liberties Union announced the filing of a landmark lawsuit challenging LGBT adoption discrimination practices in Michigan, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) unveiled a national ad and policy report underscoring the potential dangers that adoption-related religious exemption laws pose to children. The “Kids Pay the Price” ad, released in partnership with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), was targeted to debut on Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, but was rejected by the network. MAP has released the 30-second spot online; the ad can be viewed at www.KidsPayThePrice.Org

“Politicians are passing these laws, so it’s important for the public to understand how these laws can hurt kids,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of the Movement Advancement Project. “Fox News Channel’s refusal to air the ad suggests that the consequences kids may experience as a result of these laws are so negative that it’s better to let these laws pass unchecked than to ask news audiences to grapple with how harmful and troubling these laws really are. Sweeping these issues under the rug simply means more kids in harm’s way.”

TV Ad: “Kids Pay the Price”

Laws and practices similar to the those being challenged by the ACLU in Michigan exist in six other states and are being considered nationally. This year alone, South Dakota, Alabama and Texas passed legislation permitting state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs, joining Alabama, North Dakota, Virginia and Michigan for a total of seven states with such laws. Congress is also considering H.R. 1881, a federal bill that would cut federal funding for child welfare services by 15% to any state that passes or enforces nondiscrimination requirements for child services organizations.

MAP’s 30-second ad vividly depicts the kinds of harms children can face when agencies and workers are allowed to prioritize their individual beliefs over the best interest of children. In the ad, a social worker is depicted saying she would rather keep a child in foster care than allow her to be adopted by a qualified gay or lesbian couple; a child placement worker says that a gay or transgender child should be placed with families that support harmful ‘conversion therapy’ practices, and a placement worker says he shouldn’t have to place children in homes that don’t share his belief in “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

The ad concludes with Christine James-Brown, CEO and President of CWLA, speaking out against these harmful laws. CWLA’s mission is to advance policies, best practices and strategies that result in better outcomes for children and families. “We have laws governing child services agencies for a reason,” James-Brown says in the ad. “When states allow adoption decisions to be based on a worker’s individual beliefs, rather than the best interests of children, it’s children who pay the price.”

New Report on State Laws; ACLU Lawsuit

To provide in-depth policy analysis of why religious exemptions like the law the ACLU is challenging in Michigan are so dangerous and ripe for abuse, MAP also published Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children, a new report developed in partnership with CWLA and NASW. The report offers a fact-based analysis of religious exemption laws, adoption discrimination, and the harms children across the country may suffer because of these laws.

The report notes that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.

The ACLU’s Michigan lawsuit documents how agencies are using the state's religious exemption law to discriminate. The case was brought on behalf of two same-sex couples that were rejected as prospective adoptive parents by agencies simply because they were gay or lesbian. Another plaintiff is a former foster youth who experienced the challenges of finding a permanent home and objects to taxpayer dollars funding child-placing agencies that harm children by turning away loving and qualified families simply because of the agencies’ religious objections to those families.

“Child services workers are tasked with acting in the best interests of children,” said Heidi McIntosh, Deputy Director of Programs with NASW. “When states give agencies and workers a license to discriminate and to refuse to place children with qualified parents simply because those parents are gay or lesbian, or because they don’t share the agency’s beliefs, they’re creating a climate where fewer kids can find loving homes, and more kids are kept in government care.”

In fact, more than two-thirds (68%) of Americans oppose allowing taxpayer-funded child services agencies to refuse to place children with gay or lesbian couples, according to a poll released last week by PRRI.

For more information on the ad, or to speak with a representative of MAP, please contact Calla Rongerude at calla@lgbtmap.org. To speak with the ACLU about their lawsuit, contact Ryan Karerat at rkarerat@aclu.org.

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