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License to Discriminate: How Religious Exemption Legislation For Social Services Agencies Harms Children

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The freedom of religion is one of our nation’s most fundamental values, which is why it is already protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Americans also believe in equal treatment, and while religious freedom is important, that freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to harm, discriminate against, or impose their beliefs on others. Yet many states have passed or are considering legislation that would allow child placement and adoption agencies to do just that, while providing government services paid for with taxpayer money

License to Discriminate: How Religious Exemption Legislation For Social Services Agencies Harms Children details how this type of religious exemption legislation hurts children. These laws encourage and enable adoption agencies and their workers to reject parents who don’t share the agency’s or worker’s religious beliefs instead of providing forever homes for children. As a result, children may remain in government group homes and foster care rather than being adopted by qualified parents. These laws also enable workers and organizations to prioritize their own religious beliefs when determining treatment options for children in their care. The potential for abuse of this legislation is far-reaching, as agencies and individual workers may have a very broad range of beliefs, and these laws would legally prioritize those religious beliefs over the best interests of children

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. March 2017. License to Discriminate: How Religious Exemption Legislation For Social Services Agencies Harms Children. (date of access).

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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.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“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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